Energy assistance for low-income Minnesotans is still available

Published 8:32 am Wednesday, April 18, 2018

SAINT PAUL — A record April snowstorm and cold temperatures mean Minnesotans need to keep the heat on to stay warm and safe.

For those who are struggling to pay their heating bills, the Minnesota Commerce Department urges residents to apply for the state’s Energy Assistance Program.

Heating assistance funds are still available, but are limited and households receive assistance on a first-come, first-served basis. Applications are accepted until May 31.

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For information, visit the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program on the Minnesota Commerce Department website (mn,gov/commerce) or call 800-657-3710.

The Cold Weather Rule that protects Minnesotans from natural gas or electricity shut-off ended on April 15. To avoid disconnection now, customers who still owe on their heating bill should contact their utility and ask to continue their payment plan or establish a new payment plan.

For more information on the Cold Weather Rule, visit the Public Utilities Commission website, email or call 651-296-0406 or 800-657-3782.

Put health and safety first

With the recent heavy snowfall, Minnesotans are also advised to protect their health and safety by checking that their homes are properly vented.

In homes with high-efficiency furnaces and other combustion appliances that vent through an exterior sidewall, proper venting is essential. To prevent dangerous backdrafting of carbon monoxide and keep appliances operating safely, follow these tips.

•Check vents regularly to make sure they are not blocked.

•Keep vents clear and free of any snow or ice.

•Make sure carbon monoxide detectors are working throughout the house. Minnesota law requires these alarms in every single-family and multifamily dwelling.

A well-functioning, older, less-efficient furnace that vents through the chimney will usually create exhaust temperatures that are hot enough to melt any snow that might collect on the chimney. But it is a good idea to check chimneys and rooftop vents (such as on mobile homes) to make sure they are not snow clogged.

How to apply for energy assistance

The Commerce Department administers the Energy Assistance Program in partnership with 30 local service providers throughout the state. The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Energy assistance is available for renters and homeowners earning at or below 50 percent of the state’s median income ($48,077 for a family of four). Energy assistance funds go directly to the energy provider on behalf of eligible households.

The average annual grant per household is about $520. Last year, the program helped more than 126,000 Minnesota households.

To apply for energy assistance, contact the local service provider in your county. To find your service provider, visit the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program on the Commerce website or call 800-657-3710.