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The heat is on: Low-income Minnesotans encouraged to apply for energy assistance to help pay heating bills, stay safe

1/14/2016 1:09:13 PM

SAINT PAUL – With the return of bitterly cold winter weather, the Minnesota Department of Commerce wants low-income Minnesotans to know about the opportunity to apply for the state’s Energy Assistance Program (EAP) to get help paying their heating bills.

“We want Minnesotans to know that help is available if they are struggling to pay their heating bills,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Heating your home is a necessity in this cold weather, and we do not want any Minnesotan’s health or safety put at risk. Energy assistance funds can help households avoid the choice between buying food and medicine or paying their heating bill.”

Energy assistance applications have been down slightly this heating season, possibly due to warmer than normal temperatures in November and December, said Rothman. 

“We encourage anyone who may have difficulty paying their heating bills to apply for energy assistance,” he said. “Low-income households with children under the age of six, people with disabilities, veterans and seniors are especially encouraged to apply.”

In October 2015, Minnesota received nearly $102 million in federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds for this year’s Energy Assistance Program. 

The funds help low-income homeowners and renters pay for heating bills through grant money paid directly to utility companies and heating fuel vendors on behalf of eligible households. The funding also helps some homeowners repair or replace malfunctioning heating systems.

Nearly 139,000 served last year

The Energy Assistance Program helps homeowners and renters who earn less than 50 percent of the state’s median income ($46,056 for a family of four) obtain grant money to help pay their heating bills.

Last year, Minnesota served nearly 139,000 households. The average basic grant per household was just over $500.

Commerce administers the Energy Assistance Program in partnership with 31 local service providers throughout the state. The service providers may also help advocate for consumers in situations such as utility disconnections and energy supply issues. Service providers can also educate clients about efficient and safe use of home heating systems.

How to apply for energy assistance

While new applications are accepted until May 31, 2016, funding is limited and administered on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Qualifying households must apply for assistance through the local service provider in their area. To find your local service provider, call 800-657-3710 or /commerce/eap.jspvisit the Energy Assistance Program section at the Commerce Department website.

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