Low-income Minnesotans may no longer have to worry about running out of heat this winter.
The House suspended its rules on Tuesday and voted 133-0 in favor of HF2374, an emergency bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Radinovich (DFL-Crosby), which would provide $20 million from the General Fund to LIHEAP, a program that provides energy assistance to low-income residents. The bill now goes to the Senate.
Radinovich said LIHEAP provides money to those qualified for all forms of heating, not just propane, which has increased in price this year. “All forms of heating will be at-risk if we don’t replenish this fund,” he said.
To assist further, the governor used his executive authority to increase crisis benefits for the program from $500 to $1,000 for households heating with propane or heating oil. The maximum income requirements were also increased from 50 percent of the state’s median income to 60 percent. This action increased the number of households eligible for heating assistance by 120,000.
The $20 million will be used to supplement federal funding that is set to run out at the beginning of March. If all of the $20 million is not used by June 30, 2014, the remaining funds would go back into the state’s General Fund.
As of Feb. 20, 108,268 Minnesota households are receiving assistance, with another 22,918 waiting to have their eligibility determined. More than 23,000 households have already received crisis assistance, up from 14,033 at this time last year.