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Help is available to pay your heating bill

With subzero temperatures arriving in much of the state, the Minnesota Commerce Department reminds Minnesotans to apply to the state's Energy Assistance Program for help paying their heating bills.

For those who have not already applied for help this heating season, there is still time. Households with young children, people with disabilities, veterans or seniors are especially encouraged to apply.

"Energy assistance is an essential safety net that can help vulnerable Minnesotans avoid the cruel choice between buying food or medicine and paying the heating bill," said Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley. "Heating your home is a necessity in Minnesota, and we don't want anyone's health or safety put at risk because they can't afford to pay for heat."

The Energy Assistance Program serves households that earn less than 50 percent of the state's median annual income ($49,698 for a family of four). It helps low-income homeowners and renters with heating bills through grant money paid directly to their utility companies or heating fuel vendors. Funds are also available to help some homeowners repair or replace malfunctioning heat systems.

In October, Minnesota received about $116 million in federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds for this year's Energy Assistance Program. The program is not affected by the federal government shutdown.

Average annual grant is $545

Last year the Energy Assistance Program served more than 126,000 Minnesota households, with an average grant of about $545. These households included nearly 56,000 seniors and more than 8,000 veterans.

The Minnesota Commerce Department administers the program in partnership with 29 local service providers throughout the state. The service providers can also help residents facing heat disconnections or needing emergency fuel delivery.

How to apply for Energy Assistance

New applicants have until May 31 to apply, but funding is limited and administered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Eligible households apply for assistance with the local service provider in their area. To receive an application and find your local service provider, visit the Energy Assistance Program section of the Commerce Department website (mn.gov/commerce) or call the Commerce Department toll-free at 800-657-3710.