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Heating Assistance money available for families affected by Cold Weather Rule expiration

April 13, 2009

Heating Assistance money available for families affected by Cold Weather Rule expiration

--For Immediate Release                                                       
April 13, 2009                                                                  
Contacts:        Department of Commerce Bill Walsh (651) 296-7531
Public Utilities Commission Deborah Motz 651-296-0406

Time period for processing applications for energy assistance extended to July 2.

(St. Paul) - State energy officials urged families who may be affected by the April 15 expiration of the Cold Weather Rule to contact their local community action program to apply for heating assistance to help catch up on their utility bills. The federal government doubled the amount of money available for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for this winter and there is still money available to help Minnesota families.

The Office of Energy Security at the Minnesota Department of Commerce also announced that it is extending the period for accepting applications for energy assistance from May 31 to July 2, allowing more families to apply for assistance.

So far this heating season, the state has helped over 135,000 households with heating assistance grants averaging over $500 per household. With the increased funding from the federal government, the state expects to help close to 160,000 households this heating season, which would be a new record.

"Even though warmer weather is returning to Minnesota, we can still help families get caught up with their winter energy bills," said Bill Glahn, Director of the Office of Energy Security. "If you or someone you know needs energy assistance, please take the time to contact your local agency and apply."

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is federally funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce through 38 local service providers around the state. This program helps low-income customers pay their heating bills through grant money paid directly to the utility company on behalf of the customer.

Customers with less than 50 percent of the state median income ($40,738 for a family of four) may qualify. Households with seniors, disabled, and children are especially encouraged to apply. A list of service providers by county can be found at www.staywarm.mn.gov .

The Cold Weather Rule is administered by the Public Utilities Commission and protects consumers from having their utility service shut off during the winter months.

Most utilities offer bill payment options, including budget plans that help even out the payment amount of each month's energy bill. Contact your utility company for more information.

For more information on energy efficiency, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or the Weatherization Assistance Program, contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce Energy Info Center:

Other forms of assistance may be available through county social service programs, community based organizations and non-profit agencies such as Heat Share, administered by the Salvation Army.