The cost of home heating is higher, especially in rural areas where many people depend on oil or propane.
The energy assistance program provides crisis funding when residents have no other resources to pay for home heating.
"You're running low on your heating oil or your propane, or you get a disconnect notice from your your utility, you can access this extra benefit” said Michael Schmitz, Director of the Energy Assistance Program at the Minnesota Department of Commerce. “At the beginning of the year, that crisis maximum was $600 and we just increased it to $1,500.”
The decision to increase the crisis funding was made after monitoring demand, cost and available funding Schmitz said.
About 40,000 low income Minnesota households which are eligible for heating assistance need crisis funding to stay warm in a typical winter.
“I wouldn’t necessarily expect this increase in the benefit amount to increase the number of households who are accessing that benefit, but it will certainly increase the amount they are able to get. Which is I think really important in a year like like this one where energy costs are higher,” Schmitz said. “I would expect that it'll just be that much more expensive to get fill-ups of fuel oil or propane. So this is really going to help ensure that we're able to actually get a meaningful fill for folks.”
The additional crisis funding is possible because of $19.7 million in supplemental funding received last month after Congress approved the aid as part of a continuing resolution to fund the federal government.
About 125,000 Minnesota households apply for low income heating assistance in a typical heating season.
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