Another $56 million available for heating helpby Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — There's more money on the way to help low-income Minnesotans pay heating bills, but state officials aren't sure it will be enough to meet the need.
Minnesota Department of Commerce spokeswoman Nicole Garrison-Sprenger said the additional funds announced Wednesday will make a total of nearly $147 million available for help paying bills. She said already this year, requests for help are running 6 percent more than last year.
"We have several more months of cold weather and likely there will be many more people in need of assistance," Garrison-Sprenger said. "The economy is still not fully rebounded, you know, people are still struggling so we're anticipating there will continue to be applications for assistance.
Average grants are about $500 per recipient and the money goes directly to the utility. Federal officials predict people using fuel oil to heat their homes will have heating bills twenty percent higher than last year.
People living on half the state's median income -- $43,500 for example, for a family of four -- qualify. Record global crude oil demand is driving up heating oil prices and the federal government estimates people heating with fuel oil will spend an average of $2,291 per household this winter, 20 percent more on heating than last winter.
A list of local service providers and more information about the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program can be found at www.staywarm.mn.gov by clicking on "Low Income Assistance" or by calling 651-296-5175 or toll free in Minnesota 1-800-657-3710.
- All Things Considered, 01/13/2011, 4:55 p.m.