Utility bills are hitting Minnesotans harder than ever

Plumes of vapor rise above the Mississippi River.
Plumes of vapor rise from an Xcel Energy plant, left, and District Energy plant, right, in St. Paul, Minn.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2017

There’s almost nothing the devastation of the pandemic hasn’t touched. That includes everyday things like bills and Minnesotans’ ability to pay them.

During the pandemic, more Minnesotans have struggled to pay utility bills. The number of overdue bills in the state and the dollar amount of those bills has leapt during the pandemic, Citizens Utility Board executive director Annie Levenson-Falk said.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce’s energy assistance program helped about 284,000 Minnesotans pay their utility bills in fiscal year 2020, which ended in September 2020. The average annual income of households that sought assistance was $19,000.

Then came last month’s extreme cold, which cost utility companies hundreds of millions of dollars, according to reporting by WCCO. That will mean an estimated $200 to $400 tacked on to gas bills this year, to be spread out over the course of months.

Host Angela Davis is joined by two guests to talk about the impact of the pandemic and extreme weather on low-income households’ ability to pay bills, and what resources are available for Minnesotans who need help.

And as she does every Monday, Angela checks in with MPR News senior economics contributor Chris Farrell on the state and national economy.

Guests:

  • Annie Levenson-Falk is the executive director of the Citizens Utility Board.

  • Grace Arnold is the temporary commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

  • Chris Farrell is a senior economics contributor for MPR News.

Use the audio player above to listen to the program.

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