Lawmakers welcomed today’s announcement that the state will provide assistance to Upper Peninsula residents and delivery companies who have been struggling to afford propane heating fuel the last several weeks.

Gov. Rick Snyder unveiled a plan to double state funding for residential heating assistance by dedicating $7 million to the state’s Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program. There is already $7 million budgeted this year in the Michigan Energy Assistance Program.

“The need is definitely shown across the region,” said Rep. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan). “Sub-freezing temperatures without heating fuel can be every bit as much of an emergency crisis as flooding or hurricanes in other parts of the country. I’m glad the situation has the governor’s attention.”

Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) agreed, “I know people will be glad for the help as propane prices have approached triple what families normally budget for heating expenses. The main focus right now has to be getting people through this emergency safely, and then we can see what more needs to be done for protection in the future.”

Propane dealers and distributers will be able to apply for assistance through a new MEDC loan program to help them with costs driven up by the combination of high demand and restricted supply.

“I’m happy that the governor has responded to the need we are seeing so clearly here in the U.P.,” Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) said. “We are going to continue to work with the executive office to make sure that there are enough funds to help our most vulnerable citizens. We also want to make sure we help working people who maybe would not ordinarily need assistance, but have been forced to seek it out with these high propane prices.”

Rep. John Kivela (D-Marquette) said, “I am glad to see the governor get onboard with what the UP delegation has been stressing regarding the ongoing propane crisis. We must find ways to help our residents in these difficult times and this is a step in the right direction.”

The Department of Natural Resources has also activated a winter firewood permit program, as well as working with the forest products industry to identify local sources of firewood suppliers.

Rep. Frank Foster (R-Petoskey) said the lawmakers will keep residents and businesses informed of other potential relief programs, and can offer assistance in contacting programs.

“The number one thing is to keep the communication lines open so no one gets left out and is put in danger,” Foster said. “We are working to solve the challenges people are having and we hope to reach as many people as possible, but it helps to know what issues families are facing before they get out of hand.”