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Help is available for those having trouble paying heating bills

With the winter chill and snowflakes settling in, many residents have concerns about the utility bills they will soon face.

The state of Minnesota has received a variety of funds available to help families pay their energy bills, improve weatherization in their homes, and acquire funding for emergency repairs, according to State Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria.

Ingebrigtsten said a new one-stop website for getting information on these programs is

"In the spirit of the upcoming holiday season, the site not only gives information for receiving aid, but also for helping others in need," he said.

Another important piece of information this time of year is regarding the Cold Weather Rule (CWR).

The CWR is in effect from October 15 through April 15 each year, and helps residents with their energy bills and protects them from having their utilities shut off.

Under the CWR, you must make and keep a payment plan with your utility. (Payments do not have to be the same amount each month.)

You are not required to pay more than 10 percent of your household monthly income toward your utility bill if your household income is at or below 50 percent of the state median income.

In Minnesota, the estimated state median income for a four-person family is $81,477 so 50 percent of that would be $40,739, or $21,184 for individuals, $27,702 for two-person families and $34,220 for three-person families.

If your household income is more than 50 percent of the state median income, you may make a payment plan with the utility.

Contact your utility to set up a Cold Weather Rule payment plan.

For more information about the law, go to the Public Utilities Commission's website at or call Energy Assistance Hotline 1-800-657-3710 or First Call for Help at 211.