Dayton expands eligibility for heat assistance
By Don Davis, Forum News Service
ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton has expanded a financial aid program to help more low-income Minnesotans to afford to hear their homes.
An estimated 120,000 more Minnesota households will qualify for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program under Dayton's executive order.
Dayton’s order comes after propane prices have doubled, and in some cases quadrupled, in recent weeks as suppliers find it difficult to get enough of the fuel to the Upper Midwest.
Under the new income guidelines, as an example, a household of two earning less than $35,612 a year would qualify for financial aid to pay heating bills. Eligibility is determined by income and the number of people in a home.
A qualified family could get up to $1,000 this heating season.
Those checking into whether they qualify can go to http://tinyurl.com/heataid or call (800) 657-3710. Minnesotans also may use that hotline telephone number to ask questions or express concerns about the propane situation.
“Minnesotans across our state are living in fear that they will run out of the fuels they need to keep their families safe and warm,” Dayton said. “This crisis requires immediate action, which I have taken today. I will continue to do everything I can to ensure the safety of our citizens during this serious emergency.”
Dayton already has declared a state of emergency -- and the state Executive Council extended it to last 30 days -- because of the propane shortage and high prices and activated the state Emergency Operations Center to deal with any problems.
In a letter to state legislative leaders, Dayton said that if Washington does not come through with more heating assistance, he will ask state lawmakers to provide $17 million.
The propane hotline has attracted 1,750 calls the first five days it has been in operation, Dayton's office indicated. It is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
Dayton and six other Midwestern governors sent a letter Tuesday to President Barack Obama asking for help to increase propane transportation to their states. Experts say enough propane is being produced, it is stored away from where it is needed during the current cold weather.