Help is available; know your rights and where to apply
The Minnesota Department of Commerce and Minnesota Public Utilities Commission are reminding Minnesotans about two sources of help if home heating costs are unaffordable, the Energy Assistance Program and Cold Weather Rule.
“No Minnesotan should be without heat in their own home,” said Minnesota Commerce Department Temporary Commissioner Grace Arnold. “The Minnesota Energy Assistance Program is available to help Minnesotans pay for home heating costs, furnace repairs and fuel delivery.”
“The Cold Weather Rule is a critically important law that ensures Minnesotans don’t have their primary source of heat cut off in the cold winter months,” said Public Utilities Commission Chair Katie Sieben. “If you are having difficulties working with your utilities, please contact the Commission’s Consumer Affairs Office for assistance with Cold Weather Rule protections.”
“COVID-19 has brought financial uncertainty to all corners of the state and unfortunately more Minnesotans are now in need of, and eligible for, these programs,” added Chair Sieben.
Energy Assistance Program
To get help, call 800-657-3710 and press 1, visit the Commerce Department’s Energy Assistance Program webpage or search for “energy assistance” at mn.gov/commerce for energy assistance information.
Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program can help households pay energy bills, get reconnected or prevent energy disconnection, get fuel delivered, learn about efficiency and safety, and repair or replace homeowners’ broken heating systems.
The Energy Assistance Program helps homeowners and renters with income at or below 50% of the state’s median income ($54,357 for a family of four) pay their heating bills. Last year, more than 117,000 Minnesota households received assistance with an average amount of more than $500 per household.
The program is federally funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The Commerce Department administers the program in partnership with 29 local service providers across the state.
The Commerce Department encourages all who may qualify, especially families with children, seniors, disabled persons and veterans from across Minnesota to contact their local Energy Assistance Program service provider.
Households can find their local service provider by calling 800-657-3710 and at bit.ly/ColdWeaterResources. The Commerce Department recently mailed applications to households that qualified for energy assistance last year.
Weatherization assistance provides homeowners and renters energy efficiency improvements to reduce energy costs for those that meet income eligibility guidelines.
Other forms of assistance may be available through county social service programs, community-based organizations and nonprofit agencies. To learn more about other assistance options, connect with your area’s local service provider by calling 800-657-3710.
Cold Weather Rule
Minnesota’s Cold Weather Rule protects people from having their heat turned off from October 15 to April 15. All electric and natural gas
are required to offer this protection.Under the Cold Weather Rule, customers who have a combined household income at or below 50% of the state median income are not required to pay more than 10% of their household income toward current and past heating bills. Additionally, others who struggle to pay heating bills may be able to arrange a Cold Weather Rule payment plan and should contact their service provider to discuss their options.
To prevent heating disconnection or to reconnect service under the Cold Weather Rule, customers must first contact their utility to establish and maintain, or change, a monthly payment plan.
The Cold Weather Rule does not apply to delivered fuels such as fuel oil, propane or wood. However, Minnesotans who use these fuels are encouraged to contact the companies serving them to discuss payment options. For example, a state law requires that propane distributors offer all customers a budget plan.
The Cold Weather Rule is administered by the Commission. For more info, go to mn.gov/puc/consumers/help/shut-off-protection or call the PUC’s Consumer Affairs Office at 651-296-0406 or 800-657-3782.