Additional shutoff protections are also available as utilities transition back from COVID-19 rules by Carmen Carruthers Hundreds of millions in financial assistance is available to help Minnesotans …
Additional shutoff protections are also available as utilities transition back from COVID-19 rules
by Carmen Carruthers
Hundreds of millions in financial assistance is available to help Minnesotans pay for electricity, natural gas, propane, and other delivered fuels.
The nonprofit Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota (CUB), along with many others across the state, is spreading the word that grants are available to households who qualify based on income, as are special protections from shutoffs as the state transitions out of the COVID emergency. While the state’s regulated electric and gas utilities had been under a shutoff moratorium, they are permitted to resume disconnecting residential customers for unpaid bills beginning August 2. Many cooperative and municipal utilities have already resumed shutoffs.
“Even though we’re coming out of the official state of emergency, a lot of people are really struggling to afford energy bills,” said CUB’s Outreach Director, Carmen Carruthers. “The good news is that there are resources and protections available.”
The assistance for energy bills is part of Minnesota’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, commonly called LIHEAP, EAP, or Energy Assistance. Thanks to additional COVID-related funding from the federal government, Energy Assistance applications are being accepted year-round. (In a typical year, applications are accepted until May 31.) The income maximum for qualification has also been raised this year, as has the amount of funding an applicant can receive.
Any Minnesotan who has earned 60% of the state median income or less over the past three months is qualified to receive Energy Assistance. For a household of three, that equates to $13,697 in the past three months or an annual income of $54,791. You do not need to be behind on energy bills to qualify, but there is additional assistance for customers at risk of having their service disconnected or running out of delivered fuel.
To apply for Energy Assistance, contact your local provider. You can find your provider at https://cubminnesota.org/shutoff or by calling 1-800-657-3710.
Receiving Energy Assistance provides additional protection for many Minnesotans worried about an electricity or natural gas shutoff. No state-regulated utility is permitted to disconnect service to a home that has received Energy Assistance through April 30, 2022. This applies to CenterPoint Energy, Dakota Electric Association, Great Plains Natural Gas, Greater Minnesota Gas, Minnesota Energy Resources, Minnesota Power, Otter Tail Power, and Xcel Energy.
Finally, utility customers who receive Energy Assistance can also qualify for significantly reduced electric and natural gas rates. CenterPoint, Great Plains Natural Gas, Greater Minnesota Gas, Minnesota Energy Resources, Minnesota Power, and Xcel all offer affordability programs that cap utility bills at a percentage of a customer’s income, including forgiving a portion of any overdue amount that might remain on a customer’s bill after receiving Energy Assistance.