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      State representatives meet to discuss the propane shortage and solutions

      With the hard winter and propane shortage, requests for heating assistance have gone up 1000 percent percent this winter.

      The shortage has been caused by many things. State officials attribute improper distribution, high exportation, and the large, but wet grain crop for using large quantities of propane.

      Michigan is number one in the nation for homes using propane for heat. Officials say as many as 400,000 households are being affected by the shortage.

      With fluctuating gas prices, about 300 complaints of price gouging have been reported. The Attorney General's office is actively looking into each complaint.

      Wholesale propane costs dropped drastically last week, explained Steve Arwood, Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs director. He expects this drop to soon be reflected in customer pricing.

      "But, we really need to take very seriously any potential for gouging,â?? said State Representative, Ed McBroom, â??and we need to make sure that the people who are supplying our dealers are also being fair."

      For those in need, assistance is available. Low income residents in need of assistance are encouraged to call 2-1-1.

      "You have a wonderful group of community action agencies up here in the U.P.,â?? Arwood stated. â??They are very effective, and by calling that number, you will get somebody that can help."

      Through 2-1-1, veterans, too, can be directed. The Veteran Trust Fund will most likely be able to help over 80 percent of the veterans living in the U.P.

      Also, the Department of Natural Resources is selling fuel wood permits early this year.

      "We are opening it up due to the situation this year, and each household will be available for two permits this year," said Stacy Haughey, U.P. DNR coordinator.

      State officials are currently working to find solutions for those who do not qualify as "low income" but in need of assistance. There is no timeline for when help would be available.