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Stateside: Monday, August 22, 2022

On this episode of Stateside, a supply chain expert from Michigan State explained where problems still exist and what consumers should expect in the near future. Then passenger railroad proponents gave an update on a plan to connect Southeast Michigan to points north via train. And an investigation explored DTE Energy's system of selling closed out accounts with overdue bills to an aggressive debt collector.

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  • Jason Miller, associate professor of logistics, Department of Supply Chain Management at Michigan State's Broad College of Business
  • Carolyn Ulstad, transportation program manager, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities
  • Carrie Thompson, director, Cadillac/Wexford Transit Authority
  • Sarah Alvarez, founder, executive editor at Outlier Media

DTE issued the following statement in response to the reporting from Outlier Media and ProPublica:

"DTE has not sold customer debt in the past 5-years, since 2017. Since the pandemic, overall customer debt has actually decreased. In our service territory, an unfortunately high percentage of our customers fall below the poverty line, and we do aggressive, targeted outreach to inform them that financial aid is available. We do not sell the debt of these customers. In the fiscal year 2021, eligible DTE customers received $119 million in financial aid, and we expect that number to grow to $185 million this year.

"In 2017, some customers had become unresponsive to our efforts for help, and their unpaid debt was sold in an effort to mitigate an increasing burden of higher rates on the rest of our customers. All of these customers had terminated service, had closed accounts and left unpaid bills. All debt sales include closed customer accounts only."

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