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Minnesota, North Dakota residents invited to apply for heating assistance

ST. PAUL — With a frigid season ahead, Minnesota and North Dakota officials are encouraging eligible residents in need of help paying heating bills to sign up for energy assistance programs.

In Minnesota, households that earn less than 50 percent of the state's median annual income ($48,077 for a family of four) may be eligible for the Energy Assistance Program, according to the state Department of Commerce.

The program helps low-income homeowners and renters pay for heating bills through grants paid directly to heating-fuel vendors and utility companies.

"The winter weather may be slow in arriving this year, but we know there will be plenty of cold days ahead that can pose a serious challenge for Minnesotans who struggle to pay their heating bills," Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman said in a statement.

The program may also help some homeowners repair or replace faulty heating systems.

Minnesota's Energy Assistance Program served more than 126,000 households last year, with an average grant of $520, according to the Commerce Department. The program received more than $102 million in federal funds in October for this year.

In North Dakota, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps families with home heating costs by partially paying the cost of natural gas, electricity, propane, coal, wood or other fuel sources.

Weatherization services as well as furnace and chimney cleaning, repairs and inspections are also covered for North Dakota renters and homeowners eligible for the program. A household's income must be at or below 60 percent of median income ($59,114) in order to apply.

Since the amount of money is limited and distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, residents are encouraged to apply early. The application deadline in both states is May 31, 2018.

To apply in Minnesota, contact the local agency recognized as an Energy Assistance Program provider in your community. For a list, call 800-657-3710 or visit https://mn.gov/commerce/consumers/consumer-assistance/energy-assistance.

To apply in North Dakota, contact your county social service office and request an application be mailed or complete the application online to print and drop off at the office. For more information, visit www.nd.gov/dhs/services/financialhelp/energyassist.html

Forum reporter Kim Hyatt contributed to this report.

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