The Minnesota Energy Assistance Program received $38.3 million from the federal government to help low-income Minnesotans and college students renting houses and apartments to pay for heating this winter. In September, President Clinton gave $16.2 million, and Congress added another $72 million in support so that Minnesota can help its residents stay warm through the winter. Rising heating costs and decreasing temperatures means this assistance is invaluable to those who normally would not be able to pay.
An increase in assistance of 14 percent is expected this winter due to the 50 percent increase in natural gas prices. Consumers of natural gas are already seeing a 30 to 40 percent increase in their heating bills as the winter season draws near. Approximately 89,000 households are expected to receive about $445 each. The money will not be given out directly by the state but is contracted from the state by community action programs, which will assess the need for assistance and the amount given.
Qualifications for assistance include standing utility payments of both heat and electricity with income constraints. A two-person household needs to have earned less than $5,707 in the last three months, which is less than $951.17 per person per month, and a four-person household must earn less than $8,393 in the past three month period, or less than an average of $699.41 per person. The good news for renters is that they do qualify as long as their income is low enough. Apartment and house renters both qualify as long as the income requirements are met.
This is a positive move by the government and will be beneficial for many citizens. They recognize the adverse consequences of the extraordinary jump in heating costs and are responding to its constituents’ concerns and needs.
To find out if you qualify and what community action program to contact for aid this winter, call Minnesota’s energy assistance information line at 1-800-657-3805.