SAINT PAUL, MN — The brutal cold weather is sweeping across the country yet again, causing national headlines and larger-than-average heating bills. The Minnesota Department of Commerce reminds low-income households, especially homes with senior citizens, people with disabilities, veterans, and families with children who might be struggling to pay their heating bills that help is still available from Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program (EAP).
“The most important issue for all Minnesotans during the winter is maintaining a safe and warm place to stay, and I encourage families and individuals who need assistance in heating their home to apply for energy assistance,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “This extended cold snap and sky-rocketing propane prices can present Minnesotans with tough choices between putting food on the table or staying warm – and we are here to tell Minnesotans that crisis funds are available to help with their heating needs.”
Yesterday, U.S. Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar announced in a joint press release that the bipartisan federal spending bill included and additional $3.4 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which is an increase of $169 million from sequester levels. The Federal Government has not yet announced Minnesota’s specific funding, but the announcement means that many more Minnesotans will be able to access energy assistance this year.
In response to the significant cost increases in propane – which is an unregulated industry in the United States – the Commerce Department has begun to take the necessary steps to increase LIHEAP Crisis payments from $500 to $1,000 for applicants currently heating their homes with propane and heating oil. The Department believes the crisis payments will be available as early as next week.
How to apply for energy assistance
Minnesota received nearly $99 million in federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds for the Energy Assistance Progam in November. Last year, Minnesota served 147,636 households with $109 million in federal funds.
The average energy assistance grant is $500 per household. Households with an income less than 50 percent of the state median income ($43,642 for a family of four) may qualify; those who qualify are served on a first-come, first-served basis while funds last. People have until May 31, when the program year ends, to apply for EAP.
EAP pays the utility company directly on behalf of eligible households. Qualifying families must apply for assistance at the local service provider in their area; Minnesota has 32 local service providers. A list of local service providers and information on applying for the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program is available by visiting the Energy Assistance section of the Division of Energy Resources website (mn.gov/commerce/energy/) or by calling 1-800-657-3710 or 651-539-1882. EAP is administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.