Low-income Minnesotans may no longer have to worry about running out of heat this winter.
The House and the Senate have both suspended their rules to take up an emergency bill that will provide $20 million from the General Fund to LIHEAP, a program that provides energy assistance to low-income residents. The bill now goes to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature.
“People in outstate Minnesota are suffering and their low income heating assistance help is running out. There are children and seniors sitting in cold homes in Greater Minnesota – it is a crisis. We need to get this money in the pipeline immediately,” Sen. Karin Housley said in a statement. “I am pleased the full Senate agreed with our motion today and I hope the governor will sign the bill without delay.”
Reps. Kathy Lohmer (R-Stillwater) and Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake) also supported the bill.
LIHEAP provides money to those qualified for all forms of heating, not just propane, which has increased in price this year.
According to Minnesota House of Representatives Session Daily:
To offer further assistance, the governor used his executive authority to increase crisis benefits for the program from $500 to $1,000 for households heating with propane or heating oil. The maximum income requirements were also increased from 50 percent of the state’s median income to 60 percent. This action increased the number of households eligible for heating assistance by 120,000.
The $20 million will be used to supplement federal funding that is set to run out at the beginning of March. If all of the $20 million is not used by June 30, 2014, the remaining funds would go back into the state’s General Fund.
As of Feb. 20, 108,268 Minnesota households are receiving assistance, with another 22,918 waiting to have their eligibility determined. More than 23,000 households have already received crisis assistance, up from 14,033 at this time last year.
Families needing assistance should contact Washington County to fill out an application.
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