Minnesota's cold weather rule begins Oct. 15, energy assistance program help available

Staff Writer
Redwood Falls Gazette

The Minnesota Department of Commerce and Minnesota Public Utilities Commission remind Minnesotans about two sources of help if home heating costs are unaffordable, the energy assistance program (EAP) and the cold weather rule.

“No Minnesotan should be without heat in their own home,” said Grace Arnold, Minnesota Commerce Department temporary commissioner. “The Minnesota energy assistance program is available to help Minnesotans pay for home heating costs, furnace repairs and fuel delivery.”

According to Katie Sieben, the state public utilities commission chair, the cold weather rule is a critically important law. It ensures Minnesotans don’t have their primary source of heat cut off in the cold winter months.

Minnesota’s energy assistance program can help households pay energy bills, get reconnected or prevent energy disconnection, get fuel delivered, learn about efficiency and safety and repair or replace homeowners’ broken heating systems.

The program helps homeowners and renters with income at or below 50 percent of the state’s median income ($54,357 for a family of four) pay their heating bills.

Last year, more than 117,000 Minnesota households received assistance with an average amount of more than $500 per household.

The commerce department encourages all who may qualify, especially families with children, seniors, disabled persons and veterans from across Minnesota, to contact their local service provider. Households can find their local service provider by calling 800-657-3710.

Other forms of assistance may be available through county social service programs, community-based organizations and non-profit agencies.

To learn more about other assistance options, connect with your area’s local service provider by calling the aforementioned number.

Minnesota’s cold weather rule protects people from having their heat turned off from Oct. 15 to April 15. All electric and natural gas companies are required to offer this protection.

Under the rule, customers who have a combined household income at or below 50 percent of the state median income are not required to pay more than 10 percent of their household income toward current and past heating bills.

Additionally, others who struggle to pay heating bills may be able to arrange a cold weather rule payment plan and should contact their service provider to discuss their options.

To prevent heating disconnection or to reconnect service under the cold weather rule, customers must first contact their utility to establish and maintain, or change, a monthly payment plan.

The rule does not apply to delivered fuels such as fuel oil, propane or wood.

More information is available at the PUC Web site or by calling 800-657-3782.