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St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Minnesota Energy Assistance Program is expanding.

The State Commerce Department today announced the income eligibility limit for the program has been increased to 60 percent of Minnesota's median income. For a family of four that works out to just under $68,000 per year. Officials say the change is estimated to make more than 600,000 Minnesota households income-eligible for Energy Assistance. By comparison, about 116,000 Minnesota households applied and qualified for the program during the previous 12 months.

In addition to the expansion of eligibility for assistance, the Commerce Department is also significantly raising the amounts of assistance available for individual households. Up to $1600 will be available for paying current energy bills this and an additional $1200 is available to help eligible households cover past due energy bills.

photo by Jupiterimages

The Commerce Department has received more than $130 million in federal funding for the Energy Assistance Program this year and is expecting an additional infusion of federal money this fall. The department also noted the Cold Weather Rule goes into effect this Friday and will remain in effect until the end of April. The State Legislature this year approved extending the rule by 15 days in the fall and another 15 days in the spring.

For more information or assistance, see the PUC “Shutoff Protection” info online or call the PUC’s Consumer Affairs Office: 651-296-0406.

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