MDHHS Revives Asset Testing for State Emergency Relief Energy Benefits

Contact: Dave Akerly, Director of Marketing and Public Relations 517-373-7394

Lansing, Mich. April 30, 2012 - The Michigan Department of Human and Human Services will begin asset testing for clients who apply for State Emergency Relief (SER) energy benefits. The asset test policy will officially launch on May 1, 2012.

The recent mild winter helped a great deal in lowering the amount of emergency relief needed across Michigan. However, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding, federal dollars administered by MDHHS, has been decreasing on an annual basis. This policy will help ensure enough money remains available to assist those truly in need.

Funds for the energy portion of SER can help with clients' ability to pay for a variety of needs, such as furnace repair, keeping electric or gas service from being disconnected, and reestablishing utility services, etc.

Asset testing in SER energy funds will provide for a more consistent and equitable approach in establishing client eligibility, and was previously a part of MDHHS policy for energy benefits until January 1, 2006. Asset testing for non-energy related emergency relief has also been in place for more than a decade.

During fiscal year 2011, more than $142 million was spent on energy-related SER, resulting in 187,868 Michigan households receiving benefits. There is now a fiscal year cap for benefits paid per household of $850 a year in delivered fuels, and $450 for natural gas, electricity, etc.

The asset test will not apply to the first $50 of assets per household, and does apply to the following key categories, among others:

  • Cash on hand.
  • Amounts on deposit in banks, savings and loan associations, credit unions and other financial institutions.
  • Stocks, bonds and other investments, including negotiable instruments.
  • Lump-sum payments (this would include lottery or other gambling winnings).

Michigan now joins the ranks of other states that have asset testing in place for both energy and non-energy related emergency funds. For more information on State Emergency Relief benefits in Michigan, how to apply and the rules for qualifying, please contact your local MDHHS office, or visit our website at