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Assistance with heat bills is available to Minnesotans

WILLMAR -- As temperatures drop, heating bills usually rise, putting a strain on those with set or limited budgets. The Minnesota Department of Commerce's Energy Assistance Program is available to assist.

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Public domain image of T-86 Round Thermostat, by Honeywell International

WILLMAR - As temperatures drop, heating bills usually rise, putting a strain on those with set or limited budgets. The Minnesota Department of Commerce's Energy Assistance Program is available to assist.

"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," Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley said in a news release about the program. "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."

Energy Assistance serves households that earn less than 50 percent of the state's median annual income, which is $49,698 for a family of four. The program, which works with local service providers throughout the state, pays the customer's utility companies or heating fuel vendors with grant funds.

There are also funds available to help with repairing or, when needed, replacing heat systems.

In 2018, 126,000 households in Minnesota received an average grant of about $545. Households included 56,000 seniors and 8,000 veterans.

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While winter has already begun, households can still apply. However, funds are administered on a first-come, first-serve basis and the budget is limited. For this year's heating season, the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program provided the Minnesota program $116 million.

Households apply for assistance through the local service provider. Applications and more information can be found at mn.gov/commerce/eap.jsp or by calling the Commerce Department at 800-657-3710. The deadline to apply is May 31.

Households with young children, people with disabilities, veterans or seniors are encouraged to apply.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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