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Minnesota Energy Assistance expands to pay water bills – one application for help on energy, water bills and weatherization

9/9/2021 2:26:25 PM

For Immediate Release, September 09, 2021 

The Minnesota Department of Commerce is expanding the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program to pay water and sewer bills for Minnesotans who apply and qualify for energy assistance. Commerce is using $15 million in additional American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding designated for water assistance. Commerce has expanded income eligibility to help more Minnesotans than ever before pay costs to heat and cool their homes, power their lights and electricity, provide fuel delivery, and, if needed, repair or replace homeowners’ heating systems.

Minnesota is the first U.S. state to receive federal approval on a plan to provide water bill assistance payments to households, with a focus on preventing households from being disconnected from water and sewer utilities. The $15 million in water bill funding is in addition to the $167 million in ARPA funds Commerce received earlier this year for Energy Assistance. In addition to water and energy bill assistance, households applying for the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program may also become eligible for the Minnesota Weatherization Assistance Program, also operated by Commerce. Weatherization helps households with significant improvements to their home to lower their energy costs permanently.   

“We hope to reach thousands more Minnesotans, with one program and one application, to help reduce costs for your water bills, for your electric and gas bills, and other energy costs,” said Commerce Commissioner Grace Arnold. “Our goal at Commerce is for all Minnesotans to have access to funding that will help make your energy and water services affordable.”  

About 101,000 applications for Minnesota Energy Assistance are being mailed the first week of September from Commerce to Minnesota households who applied and received energy assistance during the 2020-2021 year. Households can receive energy bill payments of up to $1,600 and could receive an additional $1,200 in crisis funding to avoid energy disconnections or get fuel delivered. The program may also pay for any past due amount for municipal water and sewer for eligible households.

About 350,000 Minnesota households served by regulated utilities* have past-due utility bills for electric and gas energy, owing about $130 million in past-due bills, according to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. COVID-19 restrictions put in place during the pandemic peacetime emergency were lifted in May 2021, allowing regulated utility companies to disconnect customers with past-due bills. 

Minnesotans should apply now for the Energy Assistance Program.  Request an application or find your local service provider: Call 800-657-3710 and press 1 or go online to mn.gov/commerce/eap.jsp or search online for “Minnesota energy assistance” 

Key facts about Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program: 

  • Homeowners and renters can qualify for energy assistance. 
  • Income eligibility is increased to 60% of median household income, so more Minnesota households than ever before qualify for energy assistance. For example, a household with four people can have annual income of up to $67,765 to qualify. 
  • Services include payments for current and past-due bills for water and wastewater utilities when disconnection is threatened, electric, gas, oil, biofuel and propane energy, emergency fuel delivery, repair/replacement of homeowners’ broken heating systems. 
  • The application for the Energy Assistance Program is the same one to determine if a household will qualify for water bill assistance and for services in the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides free home energy upgrades to income-eligible homeowners and renters to help save energy and make sure your home is a healthy and safe place to live.
  • Payments on energy and water bills are sent directly to the household’s utility company. 
  • Households also receive education on efficient and safe use of energy. 

Consumers with past-due utility bills: Contact your utility company to set up a plan for repayment. Regulated utility* companies will not charge late fees or penalties for consumers who enter into and comply with a plan for repayment. For additional help, the PUC Consumer Affairs Office is available to answer questions and to provide consumer mediation services: Call 651-296-0406 or 1-800-657-3782, or email customer.puc@state.mn.us

*There are eight regulated utility companies providing gas or electricity in Minnesota: CenterPoint Energy, Dakota Electric Association, Great Plains Natural Gas Co., Greater Minnesota Gas, Minnesota Energy Resources Corporation, Minnesota Power, Otter Tail Power, and Xcel Energy. 

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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