"A Closer Look at the We Energies LIFT Program: Examining It's Impact on Customers and How It Can Be
Updated: Jun 5
"There is a separate docket at the PSC for the LIFT program that was launched in 2021-22 to help customers who are behind on their bills to get back on track and have past balances forgiven/written off."
The LIFT Program offered by WE Energies is an effort to provide relief to low-income customers who are struggling to pay their energy bills. This program allows customers to have past balances forgiven and get back on track with their payments.
The program allows for customers to enter into a deferred payment plan which reduces their payment amount, pauses disconnections for nonpayment, and provides up to $500 in credit toward past balances owed. Additionally, customers who enroll in the program are eligible for additional discounts if they maintain their payments on time each month.
On the surface, it may appear as if this program is designed to help those that need it most, but unfortunately the current iteration of the program is antiquated and does not meet and account for individual and family household current economic conditions.
Currently, both WE Energies and WPSC have limited outreach efforts when it comes to informing customers about the availability of this program and how they can apply. As a result, thousands of qualifying customers may not even be aware of the program in the first place, let alone how to apply for it.
For starters, the program fails to take into account changes in customer circumstances over time. For example, someone's financial situation could change drastically over a two month period and yet they would still face penalties for not being able to pay their overdue balance within two months of enrolling in the LIFT program.
In addition, there is also a blackout period for enrollment during winter which forces customers who need assistance during this time frame to turn elsewhere for support - something that isn't always possible.
The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) is another option available for low-income households. However, unlike the LIFT Program, it comes with income requirements and may take longer to receive benefits from.
Additionally, HEAP does not provide any assistance with reconnection fees and requires customers who are having trouble paying their bills to contact their utility provider directly in order discuss payment arrangements or find other solutions that may be available.
Clearly, there are serious flaws with the current iteration of WE Energies' LIFT Program and updates must be made in order for it to effectively assist customers facing economic hardship.
A more comprehensive approach should be considered which takes into account fluctuating customer needs as well as seasonal patterns. Further investment should be made into programs like HEAP so that all low-income households have access to financial assistance when necessary, without facing unnecessary barriers such as blackout periods or high reconnection fees.