As each day puts us closer to winter, many homeowners are reaching for the thermostat, and the push is on to make sure all Michiganders are aware of the resources that can help them keep the heat on.

Whitney Skeans with Consumers Energy says there are income-based payment plans and debt forgiveness programs that customers can take advantage of, as well as a large grant that was recently given out to service organizations across Michigan. "Nearly $50 million in energy-assistance funding and those dollars are available for programs that not only help the customer pay their energy bill, but also support a path to self-sufficiency."

Skeans says prevention is the best strategy and strongly recommends families in need look at their budgets and apply for assistance early, rather than getting into a pinch down the road. She says there are also small steps anyone can take to keep heating costs down this winter. "Dialing down the thermostat just a degree or two can make a big difference, especially when you're not at home, keeping your drapes closed during times when you don't need the sunlight, and also think about applying some window kit to keep the cold out and the heat in."

The state Department of Health and Human Services estimates that weatherizing a home can save families up to $450 each year in energy costs. More information about all these programs can be accessed by dialing 211, a confidential 24-hour helpline available anywhere in Michigan.

In Livingston County, residents can also contact the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency, or OLHSA, for details on winter heating assistance. You’ll find that link below.

The Public News Service contributed to this story. (JK)