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MN Dept of Commerce expands Energy Assistance Program so 100,000 more households are eligible

4/27/2021 8:36:50 PM

For Immediate Release, April 27, 2021

Press release translations:  Hmong press releaseSomali press release, Spanish press release 

Video available:   

The Minnesota Department of Commerce has taken action so more Minnesotans can get help on their heating bills, to best serve the urgent needs of Minnesotans affected by COVID-related economic hardships, as well as those facing higher utility bills due to the natural gas price spike in February 2021.  

An estimated additional 100,000 Minnesota households are newly eligible for Energy Assistance, through Commerce’s action to raise income eligibility. Commerce also extended the time to apply, so Minnesotans can now apply for Energy Assistance through September 1, 2021.

Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program, administered by Commerce, helps households pay energy bills, get reconnected or prevent utility disconnection, learn about energy efficiency and safety, and repair or replace homeowners’ broken heating systems. The program is available to people who rent or own their homes. In addition, people who apply for the Energy Assistance Program may qualify for free home improvements that lower energy costs through the weatherization program, which provides home energy upgrades at no cost to the homeowner or renter, to lower their energy costs by conserving energy.

Household Size Annual Income Limit
1 $33,918
2 $44,355
3 $54,791
4 $65,228
5 $75,664
6 $86,101

Commerce has acted to:

Extend the deadline for Energy Assistance Program applications to September 1 for the 2020-2021 season.  Applications for next year’s season (2021-2022) open on September 2, so there is no break in the ability to apply. 

Raise the income limit from 50 percent to 60 percent of the state’s median income, which adds about another 100,000 Minnesota households as eligible. This is the maximum income limit allowed under federal statute. The increase means a household of four people with annual income up to $65,228 is eligible for energy assistance (see chart). 

Federal stimulus payments and pandemic-related unemployment payments do not count toward the income limit. The Energy Assistance Program considers the household’s previous three months of income, so a household with recent job loss or income loss may qualify. 

In March 2021, Commerce doubled the crisis benefit to $1,200 to help income-eligible households pay past-due utility bills, avoid utility disconnections, and get emergency fuel deliveries. 

“Commerce has taken action so as many Minnesotans as possible can get help with their heating bills,” said Commerce Commissioner Grace Arnold. “We know there are many people who are struggling to pay utility bills, who lost jobs and income due to the pandemic, and even more people who were hit with utility bills they can’t afford due to Minnesota’s February cold spell and spike in natural gas prices.” 

During that 2019-2020 winter season, the Energy Assistance Program served nearly 118,000 Minnesota households – the majority are in Greater Minnesota. Commerce anticipates additional Energy Assistance Program funding from the American Rescue Plan recently approved by Congress and signed by President Biden. 

For more information about the natural gas price spike:  State of Minnesota formal investigation.  

How to apply for Energy Assistance

Households apply for assistance with the local service provider in their area. Providers are available in every corner of the state. Call 800-657-3710, and press 1, or visit the Commerce’s Energy Assistance Program online:

https://mn.gov/commerce/eap.jsp

Citizen voices: Minnesotans who receive Energy Assistance share their views 

Minnesotans who recently received Energy Assistance shared their views with community action partners, among the 29 local service providers the Department of Commerce partners with throughout the state. Here are some of the voices of Minnesotans: 

Household: A senior (age 65+) and disabled adult, with annual income of $12,800/year: 

“Energy Assistance is the difference between life and death. The misery of poverty is enough.” 

Household: A single parent with a disabled child, with an annual income of $9,000/year: 

“I really appreciate and am thankful for the Energy Assistance Program. Since I pay all utilities except for water and garbage, it would be very difficult to keep up with payments through the winter.” 

Household: anonymous 

“Your financial help towards my utility bill has afforded me a great deal of relief and has lessened my anxieties in this difficult time. I was brought to tears when you told me I suddenly had a zero balance! God bless you for all you do to help.” 

Household: anonymous

“We both had COVID-19. I was hospitalized and very sick. Still don’t feel well. We didn’t have to worry about heat. We’re on fixed incomes. Thank you so much.” 

With You Every Day

The Minnesota Department of Commerce mission is to protect all Minnesotans in their everyday financial transactions by investigating and evaluating services, and advocating that they be fair, accessible, and affordable. Wherever you are in Minnesota, the Department of Commerce is with you every day. Whether you’re filling up on gas, purchasing a home, working to reduce energy consumption, or rebuilding after a disaster—we are with you, no matter what. The Minnesota Department of Commerce oversees more than 20 regulated industries, ensuring that Minnesota businesses are strong and Minnesota consumers are protected. Learn more at mn.gov/commerce. 

MEDIA CONTACT:
Mo Schriner, Director of Communications
651-363-1227  |  mo.schriner@state.mn.us 

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