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State gets federal funds for winter heating assistance

Winthrop News of Winthrop, Minnesota

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Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman announced recently that the state's Energy Assistance Program (EAP) is receiving nearly $102 million in initial federal funding to provide winter heating assistance for eligible Minnesotans.

The funds from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will help low income homeowners and renters pay for heating bills this winter through grant money paid directly to utility companies and heating fuel vendors on behalf of eligible households. Last year, the program served close to 140,000 Minnesota households.

"Year after year, our Energy Assistance Program has helped needy Minnesota families with their heating bills during the winter," said Rothman. 'These federal funds provide an essential safety net to protect vulnerable Minnesotans from losing heat during the coldest months of the year."

The Commerce Department administers EAP in partnership with 31 local service providers throughout the state.

The program helps homeowners and renters earning at or below 50 percent of the state's median income ($46,056 for a family of four) pay their heating bills. The average annual payment for a household last year was about $500. Households with seniors, people with disabilities, veterans and children are especially encouraged to apply.

Applications were recently sent to households that 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 website.

Seek Cold Weather Rule protection.

In addition to applying for heating assistance, low-income Minnesotans are encouraged to contact their utility to apply for the Cold Weather Rule, which protects against having heat disconnected during the winter months.

The Cold Weather Rule took effect on October 15 and continues through April 15, 2016.

To prevent a heat shut off, customers must first contact their utility to establish and maintain a monthly payment plan. AH electric and natural gas companies are required to offer Cold Weather Rule protection.

Under the rule, customers who have a combined household income at or below 50 percent of the state median income ($46,056 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.

More information about the Cold Weather Rule is available at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commissioner website or by calling 651-296-0406 or 800-657-3782.

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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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