There is no secret that it gets pretty cold in Minnesota. Maintaining a warm environment when the temperatures begin to drop means paying the cost to keep the heat on, but for some those costs can be daunting. In order to ensure the public has the ability to stay warm, the State of Minnesota established the cold weather rule.

The rule prevents a utility or electric cooperative association from disconnecting service to a residential customer during a period from Oct. 15 through April 15 if that disconnection impacts the primary heat source of that customer.

However, for a customer to be allowed to maintain their heat service, they must make contact with their provider. They must also come up with some form of payment plan agreement.

Also, those customers must meet certain income eligibility requirements. Under the rule, anyone whose income is below 50 percent of the state median income or is at 110 percent of the federal poverty guideline, is eligible to have a cold weather rule payment plan. That does not mean no payments are being made during that period of time, but an agreement for payment must be reached in order for that service to be provided.

It is up to the service provider to offer information to the user about the cold weather rule, but it is up to the customer to make contact with that provider regarding the need to prevent disconnection through the tenets of the cold weather rule.

The State of Minnesota also provides a program known as the low income home energy assistance program (LIHEAP), which is a federally funded program offered through the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Financial assistance may be available to those who meet certain income requirements.

To learn more about this program, visit the Minnesota Department of Commerce at www.mn.gov/commerce.

Although the cold weather rule exists, that does not mean providers can never disconnect service.

To learn more about the cold weather rule, contact the your provider.

To receive assistance with the rule or energy assistance, contact Southwest Health and Human Services in Redwood Falls at (507) 637-4041 or United Community Action at (507) 637-8231.

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