Cold Weather Rule is now in affect; Residents can seek protection from having heat turned off, and apply for assistance

Published 7:44 am Monday, October 16, 2017

Minnesota’s Cold Weather rule went into affect on Sunday, protecting residential utility customers from having their heat shut off during the winter.

The Energy Assistance Program is also available to helps eligible Minnesota homeowners and renters pay for home heating costs.

The Cold Weather Rule  is in effect through April 15. To prevent heating disconnection under the rule, customers must first contact their utility to establish and maintain a monthly payment plan. All electric and natural gas companies are required to offer this protection.

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Under the rule, utility customers who have a combined household income at or below 50 percent of the state median income ($48,077 for a family of four) are not required to pay more than 10 percent of their household income toward current and past heating bills. Others are also eligible to arrange a Cold Weather Rule payment plan.

Minnesotans who need to re-connect their service for the winter should contact their utility now to take advantage of the payment options.

The Cold Weather Rule does not apply to delivered fuels such as fuel oil, propane or wood. But Minnesotans who use these fuels are encouraged to contact the companies serving them to discuss payment options if they are concerned about their ability to pay this winter. For example, a state law requires that propane distributors offer all customers a budget plan.

The Cold Weather Rule is administered by the Public Utilities Commission. More information is available at the commission website or by calling 651-296-0406 or 800-657-3782.

Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program helps homeowners and renters earning at or below 50 percent of the state’s median income ($48,077 for a family of four) pay their heating bills. The average annual payment per household last year was about $520. Households with seniors, people with disabilities, veterans and children are especially encouraged to apply.

Minnesotans who use delivered fuels to heat their homes are eligible for Energy Assistance Program grants even though they are not covered by the Cold Weather Rule.

Applications were recently sent to Minnesotans who qualified for energy assistance last year. Others who may qualify are encouraged to apply by contacting the local service provider in their county by calling 800-657-3710. Information is also available at the Commerce Department’s Energy Assistance Program webpage.

The Minnesota Commerce Department administers the program in partnership with 30 local service providers throughout the state. It is federally funded through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Commerce Department also administers the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides energy efficiency improvements to reduce energy costs for needy households that meet income eligibility guidelines. Both homeowners and renters may apply for weatherization assistance.

Other forms of assistance may be available to Minnesotans through county social service programs, community-based organizations and nonprofit agencies.