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St Paul (KROC AM News) - Help is being offered to thousands of Minnesotans who may face a “sticker shock” experience when they receive their next natural gas bill.

A recent spike in natural gas costs occurred at the same time the state was being slammed by bitterly cold weather.  State officials have opened an investigation into the situation.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce has announced its Energy Assistance Program will increase the maximum annual crisis benefit for qualifying households from $600 to $1,200. The funds can be used to pay past-due utility bills, utility disconnections, repair or replace homeowners’ broken heating systems, and emergency fuel deliveries.

The program serves households that earn less than $54,357 for a household of four or $28,266 for a household of one, with assistance up to $1,600. 

According to the department:
“For those who have not already applied for help this heating season, there is still time. Both renters and homeowners can qualify to get energy assistance. For households who have already received assistance, even more benefits may be available. Households with young children, people with disabilities, veterans, seniors and those experiencing unemployment or financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are especially encouraged to apply.”

Last winter season (2019-2020), the program served nearly 118,000 households, most in Greater Minnesota. They included 57,000 seniors, 35,000 young children, 57,000 people with disabilities, and 7,500 veterans.

New applicants have until May 31, 2021 to apply. Funding is limited and administered on a first-come, first-served basis.  Households apply for assistance with the local service provider in their area. Call  800-657-3710, and press 1, or visit the Commerce Department’s Energy Assistance Program webpage.

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