Plan ahead: Cold Weather Rule protections end Tuesday
Although, the sun is shining and Minnesota’s temperatures are the warmest in six months, the Minnesota Department is reminding consumers that chilly evenings and the need for heat remains.
The Cold Weather Rule, administered by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), ends on April 15, next Tuesday. The PUC and the Commerce Department remind consumers to act now by applying for heating assistance.
This winter’s “polar vortex” and relentless subzero temperatures has made an impact on Minnesota households’ energy bills. Families struggling to make ends meet understood the additional cost to keep homes warm this winter. Many Minnesota utility customers utilize the Cold Weather Rule, and should act now in order to maintain their service. Most utilities offer bill payment options, including budget plans that help even out the payment amounts over several months and customers should contact their utility company for more information.
To help address the spike in heating costs this winter, the Legislature and Governor Dayton provided an addition $20 million to ensure Minnesotans can stay warm. Additionally, the eligibility was increased this year to allow for households with incomes less than 60 percent of the state median income to qualify for energy assistance. This means that the Commerce Department’s Energy Assistance Program (EAP) still has money available and is accepting applications to help low-income customers pay their energy bills. Minnesotans know that cold spring days may continue, requiring many households to keep their heat running. For families on a tight budget, the need for heat is an additional cost many households will not be able to bear.
“As Minnesotans know, the heating season can last in to May,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “I encourage families with children, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities to apply for Energy Assistance to make sure that everyone stays warm while we make it through the spring.”
The average grant per household is about $500. Customers with incomes less than 60 percent of the state median income ($52,370 for a family of four) may qualify. Households with seniors, people with disabilities, and children are especially encouraged to apply. People have until the program year ends May 30 to apply, however households are served on a first-come-first-serve basis while funds last.
Households can only be served once per heating season; therefore, households who have already received energy assistance this program year (October 1, 2013 to May 30, 2014) are not eligible for the primary grant but additional crisis benefits may be available for households facing an emergency.
Energy assistance funds go directly to the utility company on behalf eligible households. Households apply for energy assistance through 32 local service providers. Qualifying families must apply for assistance at the local service provider in their area. A list of local service providers and more information about the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program can be found athttp://mn.gov/commerce/energy/consumers/Heating-Assistance/ or by calling 1-800-657-3710.