MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Consumer watchdogs and state officials are urging Minnesotans behind on their energy bills to tap into the millions set aside to help.
Pandemic restrictions on utility companies have been lifted, which means major energy providers could start disconnecting households in two weeks if consumers have unpaid bills. Some municipal utilities have already started the closures.
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The Minnesota Department of Commerce estimates that 340,000 households have overdue energy and gas bills totaling $ 140 million.
The state says it has hundreds of millions of dollars available to help low-income people keep the air conditioning on during those hot summer months.
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The state’s energy assistance program just received an increase of another $ 167 million thanks to the US federal stimulus package.
Applications are now open year round and households with incomes equal to or less than 60% of the median income are eligible.
“The additional money we received from the federal government this year has allowed us to increase the dollar value of the benefits, and we hope to serve more people,” said Grace Arnold, commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Commerce. “We’ve tried to maximize the dollar value you can get for each application. “
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Grants can cover paying energy bills or replacing or repairing faulty home heating systems. There is also a separate weatherization program to help lower energy costs for low-income Minnesotans.