Changes coming to Michiganâ??s heating assistance program

Flint's North End Soup Kitchen may be empty now but as the weather changes, the chairs will fill up.

â??Weâ??ll have anywhere from 100 until 150 people at the warming center a day during the cold months,â?? says John Manse, director of the North End Soup Kitchen.

Heâ??s nervous about a new law that delays when people can get heating assistance.

â??People that are already living in a home, that are paying rent but don't have any Consumers Power, it's going to make our job a lot harder,â?? says Manse. â??It's going to fill our facilities up,â?? he adds.

Under the new law, low-income residents can only apply for help from November 1st until May 31st instead of year round.

â??Wait until the winter hits, we're going to get even busier. And with the cutoff at six months, it's going to be even more devastating for our clients,â?? says Manse.

â??Somebody only making $500 or $600 a month, $50 or $75 on their utility bill can mean the difference between food or something like that,â?? says Michael Stanley, a staff attorney for Legal Services of Eastern Michigan.

But state officials say the new time frame is when people need help the most. The new policy also allows people to get help when they're past due---not waiting until they get a shut off notice. But if you apply before November 1st, you'll get a rejection.

â??In our minds, we believe the Michigan Department of Human Services should reconsider what they're doing,â?? adds Stanley.