JACKSON, Mich., Nov. 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- With winter approaching, Consumers Energy is letting the public know there are many options available to keep the heat and power on in homes across Michigan. Among the options is a new program called CARE that provides help to keep bills current and a connection to cost-reducing energy efficiency services. "Consumers Energy is providing customers with information in their November bills about programs and resources to keep costs affordable and tools to manage energy wisely," said Whitney Skeans, Consumers Energy's customer assistance coordinator and co-chair of the Coalition to Keep Michigan Warm. "The Company continues to collaborate with a network of outstanding nonprofit agencies providing energy assistance around the state that are ready to help." Consumers Energy provides protection programs for people who are income-qualified, 65 and older, or in the military. Income-qualified Michigan residents also can qualify for credits on their natural gas and electric bills that together can amount to $210 a year. Company programs supplement other energy assistance that is available through the state of Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) and agencies such as The Salvation Army, The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW), TrueNorth Community Services, and Community Action Agencies. Learn more about all of these programs at www.ConsumersEnergy.com/assistance or call Consumers Energy at 800-477-5050. Customers who are currently behind on their payments can contact Consumers Energy to discuss options available to them. Additionally, a simple phone call to 2-1-1 can connect customers with other types of non-energy assistance such as food, rent, and basic needs to offset utility costs. In addition to traditional programs, Consumers Energy is taking innovative steps to connect the Michigan residents it serves to those who can help. Recently, Consumers Energy received state grant approval to fund a new pilot program that should help as many as 10,000 low-income households starting this winter. The Consumers Affordable Resource for Energy (CARE) program will provide customers with energy bill credits and access to energy-saving tools, including in-home energy efficiency upgrades. Interested customers may contact one of three partner agencies in their area to learn more: THAW (877-646-2818), The Salvation Army ( http:sawmni.org/cecare) or TrueNorth Community Services (800-379-0221). Earlier this year, the Company also created an online portal that allows agencies to expedite assistance provided on behalf of customers in need. Previously, nonprofit organizations would have to call or email Consumers Energy. Most communication and requirements can now be met online.