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Minnesota expands eligibility for home heating aid program



ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota is taking advantage of federal funding to expand the number of households that qualify for its Energy Assistance Program, the state Department of Commerce announced Monday.

The changes will make over 600,000 Minnesota households income-eligible for the program, the department said. During the previous program year, which ends Friday, about 116,000 Minnesota households applied and qualified.

The Energy Assistance Program helps households pay for current and past-due heating bills, including repair and replacement of broken heating systems. It can also help with water and sewer bills, and weatherization costs.

Commerce raised the income eligibility limit to 60% of the state’s median income levels. The limits work out to $67,765 per year for a household of four or $35,237 for a household of one. And the state agency raised benefit amounts to up to $1,600 for energy bills plus up to $1,200 for past-due energy bills.

The department also noted that the state’s Cold Weather Rule will take effect Friday, 15 days earlier than before, and will run an extra 15 days, through April 30. The rule protects residential utility customers from having electric or natural gas service shut off between those dates for people who enroll in payment plans through their utilities.

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