The number of people seeking help with energy bills is up sharply this year over last year.
Agencies that arrange energy assistance say the volume of requests is already at a level they typically don't see until January.
Scott Zemke from Community Action Partnership for Suburban Hennepin County said requests for help are up 30 percent. He said many of the people he's seeing are already carrying big balances.
"We are seeing an average balance of about $250 or $350 per utility coming into this heating season so there are a lot of people who are already behind before the heating season really even gets into full swing," Zemke said.
Zemke said many of the requests for help are from people who have never asked for help in the past. Many of those seeking help are unemployed and at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure.