State’s Energy Assistance Program funding is still available to help pay heating bills
Low-income households–especially seniors, people with disabilities, families with children–encouraged to apply for benefits
The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources wants low-income Minnesotans, especially seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children, to know that grant funds are still available to help pay their heating bills from the Energy Assistance Program (EAP).
“Even though winter may be coming to an end, cold weather will remain for several weeks and many Minnesotans may struggle to pay their energy bills,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “We still have funds to help households stay warm and we encourage families and individuals who need assistance to apply.”
Rothman said applications for heating assistance are down about 9 percent this year, from about 142,000 applications this time a year ago, to 116,000 so far this year.
The average energy assistance grant is $500 per household. Households with an income less than 50 percent of the state median income ($42,789 for a family of four) may qualify and those who do, are served on a first-come, first-served basis while funds last. People have until May 31, when the program year ends, to apply for the Energy Assistance Program.
“We want to ensure that our most vulnerable residents are not faced with no-heat situations,” Rothman said. “Research suggests that seniors in particular may hesitate to seek assistance, so we are reaching out to seniors and others in need to access the heating assistance program.”
How to apply for energy assistance
The EAP pays the utility company directly on behalf of eligible households. Qualifying families must apply for assistance at the local service provider in their area; Minnesota has 34 local service providers. A list of local service providers and information on applying for the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program is available by calling (800) 657-3710, or (651) 296-5175, or visiting the Energy Assistance section of the Division of Energy Resources website www.energy.mn.gov. EAP is federally funded by the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
Other forms of assistance may be available through county social service programs, community-based organizations, and nonprofit agencies. See www.staywarm.mn.gov, for a list of resources.
The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners of Benton County would like to invite you to attend an upcoming Spring Gardening Seminar. There is no charge to attend this seminar, and it is open for any interested individuals to attend.
The seminar will be beginning at 7 p.m. Monday, March 25, at the Benton County Courthouse, Commissioners Room, in Foley. The Benton County Master Gardeners will be presenting on the topic of “Starting Seeds Indoors.” Following this demonstration, the Master Gardeners invite attendees to participate in an open forum to discuss general gardening questions. No pre-registration is necessary to attend seminars. Any questions on the seminars can be directed to (320) 255-6169.
Once again, astronomers wait with bated breath to see if a new comet will turn out to be a delight or a dud.
Comet Pan-STARRS reaches maximum brightness around the 9th-10th, but it may be easiest to find on the 12th, when a thin crescent moon can help. Look west about 45 minutes after sunset, using binoculars if necessary; the comet will be about four degrees, or eight full moon widths, left of the moon. Pan-STARRS moves northward each successive night, appearing below and slightly right of the moon on the 13th. It will quickly fade, so try to catch it if you can.
Saturn, a morning planet, begins the month by rising in the east around 11 p.m. It comes up two hours earlier by month’s end, but with the onset of Daylight Saving Time, that translates to 10 p.m. The bright star just to the west of Saturn is Spica, representing an ear of grain held by Virgo, the virgin. Saturn’s rings are nearly
19 degrees from horizontal, and it brightens steadily as Earth prepares to lap it in the orbital race.
The countdown to the holiday season has officially begun with decorations on store shelves and gift catalogs filling mailboxes. A recent study by the Consumer Electronics Association shows that individual consumers plan to spend $1,634 overall this holiday, up 11 percent from last year. Unfortunately, much of that spending will be done on credit cards. That may make consumers feel gloomy when they get their bills in January.
"Smarter money management" is a common New Year's resolution for many people. So why not get a jump on things now and budget and spend wisely this holiday season? People often go off the financial rails when the holidays roll around, says the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants (MNCPA). Developing a spending plan and sticking to it can help keep you on track and keep you from drowning in post-holiday debt.