ST. PAUL (AP) -- Minnesotans received twice as much money this year as they did the year before to help pay heating bills, and applications for aid continue to arrive even though federal money ran out this month.
Low-income residents struggling with the winter's high heating costs turned in droves to the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which subsidizes fuel bills and helps pay for some conservation measures such as furnace repairs and insulation.
More than 108,000 people in Minnesota received $89 million in federal funds before the program ran out of money May 18.
According to the state Department of Commerce, the average natural gas bill for a Minnesota residential customer this winter was $818, more than double last year's bill. The colder temperatures and higher fuel prices meant low-income customers across the nation were paying about a quarter of their income on electricity and heat.
When gas prices surged 115 percent and temperatures plunged this past winter, President Clinton tapped emergency reserves enough to raise LIHEAP funding to nearly $2.3 billion. But this year, President Bush proposes spending $1.4 billion plus another $300 million in emergency funds, for a total of $1.7 billion -- about 20 percent less than last year.
Minnesota would get about $54 million and contingency funds which could boost the state's portion to $66 million.
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