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More Minnesotans Can Get Help with Heating Bills

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Meterologists say this winter's January temperatures were average for Minnesota. (Laurie Stern)
Meterologists say this winter's January temperatures were average for Minnesota. (Laurie Stern)
 By Laurie SternContact
February 5, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Only about one in four Minnesota households eligible for help with heating bills is getting it.

The Low Income Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, gives the state Commerce Department more than $100 million, distributed though social service providers such as Three Rivers Community Action in southeastern Minnesota.

"We serve young families, senior citizens, disabled individuals who also live on a fixed income, low-income families who might hold down one, two jobs but don't earn enough to make ends meet," says Lynette Englehardt Stott, energy programs coordinator at Three Rivers Community Action.

Households that bring in less than half the state median income are eligible. That's about $48,000 for a family of four.

To learn more, visit the Minnesota Commerce Department's website and look for the Energy Assistance Program.

The program began in 1981 after energy prices had soared in the '70s. The money is used not only for winter heating assistance, but also to help with air conditioning costs in some areas in the summer.

Last year, President Donald Trump wanted to zero out the program, but Englehardt Stott doesn't think that will happen.

"The wonderful thing about LIHEAP it has such strong bipartisan support,” she states. “Here in Minnesota, you have to have heat in the winter; in some southern states, we know that vulnerable populations can die if they don't have proper air conditioning. So, it's a really essential program to the nation."

In Minnesota, LIHEAP applications can be submitted through the end of May. The program pays for furnace repair as well as help with heating bills.

So far, about 100,000 households have applied, though the Commerce Department says more than 400,000 are eligible.



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