Governor Tim Pawlenty recently announced that Minnesota will receive $144.5 million in federal funds for its Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program for this year.
The money is part of the continuing resolution signed by President Bush and is almost double the norm for Minnesota. The funding was released now to ensure that states have the resources available to support their energy assistance programs as the weather turns colder.
The assistance program is federally funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce through 38 local service providers around the state. The program helps low-income customers pay their heating bills through grant money paid directly to the utility company on behalf of the customer.
The average grant per household is about $500. Customers with less than 50 percent of the state median income - $39,414 for a family of four - may qualify. Households with seniors, disabled individuals and children are encouraged to apply. The program is administered on a first-come, first-served basis.
The state also will receive more funding for low-income weatherization projects. The state currently serves 3,000 households with the program, but will be able to expand that with a new allocation of $16 million.
The weatherization program provides home energy conservation audits, safety inspections and assessments of furnaces and indoor air quality. People must first apply for energy assistance in order to be considered for weatherization services. Both homeowners and renters can apply for energy assistance and weatherization.
The Energy Information Center, at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, provides a wide range of energy-saving information that any homeowner may use to help control their heating costs.
Energy-saving efforts should include: sealing attic bypasses; turning down thermostat to 65 degrees while at home and 55 to 60 degrees when away or asleep; replacing your old furnace with a new, efficient model; looking for the Energy Star label on all new appliances; replacing or cleaning furnace filters monthly during the heating season; placing window film on the interior of the leakiest windows in your home; installing a carbon monoxide alarm; keeping radiators and duct registers clean; and calling your utility company about having a home energy audit and asking about a budget plan to spread out your heating costs.
For more information, contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce Energy Info Center at (651) 296-5175 or (800) 657-3710 or go to www.commerce.state.mn.us and click on Energy Info Center.
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