Tuesday, September 21, 2021


The American Rescue Plan could provide essential training to boost jobs in construction, and we explore a trauma-informed approach to preventing marijuana use in teens.


Pfizer says its vaccine is safe for children ages 5 to 11, travel restrictions soon will ease for vaccinated international visitors to the U.S., and a Texas doctor who performed an abortion under new restrictions is sued.


Lawsuits stall debt relief for America's Black farmers; Idaho hospitals using "critical care" protocols; grant money boosts rural towns in Utah and more conservation acreage could protect the iconic sage grouse.

Heating Assistance Can Bring Some Relief During Crisis


Monday, December 7, 2020   

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- New COVID-19 stimulus packages are still being hashed out at both the state and federal level.

But for immediate help, a longstanding program serves as a lifeline for Minnesotans who've seen their income reduced by the crisis and can't afford heating bills.

This fall, the state Commerce Department announced it received $106 million dollars in federal funding to cover the energy assistance program over the winter.

Bill Grant, executive director for the Minnesota Community Action Partnership (MinnCAP), said it helps both renters and homeowners and can be especially helpful to those who might not have sought aid in the past, but suddenly find themselves struggling.

"We're seeing that across the state," Grant explained. "People losing their jobs through no fault of their own, through closures of restaurants, or gyms, or other facilities."

At the same time, he noted, pandemic restrictions mean people are staying inside more often, pushing their utility bills higher.

That's why his group and state officials encourage people who can't cover these costs to sign up for energy assistance, which also covers heating repairs.

Local community action agencies can help with the process. A list of those agencies can be found on MinnCAP's website.

The state's cold weather rule, which shields customers who seek payment arrangements from having their heat disconnected during the winter, is now in effect. And the governor has established various protections during the pandemic.

But Grant said that shouldn't stop you from seeking help.

"If customers stay out of touch, or don't keep current with payment arrangements, then they are at risk of being shut off," Grant warned. "And most utility companies during the Governor's emergency orders have been fairly agreeable about not doing that, but there may come a time when that won't be the case."

Grant added even if your heat isn't disconnected, allowing your balance to keep climbing means you might have an insurmountable debt by the time winter ends.

The cold weather rule doesn't apply to those who use propane, fuel oil or wood to heat their home.

But they can still apply for energy assistance. The program's income qualifications are 50% of the state's median income level.

Disclosure: Minnesota Community Action Association Resource Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Early Childhood Education, Health Issues, Housing/Homelessness, and Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

get more stories like this via email
Food prices are rising nationwide, and the cost of a grocery store trip is up 3.5% from a year ago, according to a USDA report. (Adobe Stock)

Social Issues

RALEIGH, N.C. -- More than $1 million in COVID-19 relief grants are helping rural organizations increase their focus on locally sourced food relief…


DES MOINES, Iowa -- This fall, the Iowa Utilities Board is hosting meetings to inform the public about a proposed underground pipeline, which would …

Social Issues

MANDAN, N.D. -- North Dakota has had nearly 18,000 job openings in recent months, with roughly 1,000 in construction. A labor leader in the trades …

Approximately 3% of the 1,500 students in Montgomery County who were screened for behavioral health indicators were found to be at risk of substance use. (Adobe Stock)

Health and Wellness

DAYTON, Ohio -- An Ohio county is taking a trauma-informed approach to its work on preventing marijuana use in teens. As marijuana policy changes …

Social Issues

DENVER -- As Congress considers making significant investments in the nation's child-care system, children's advocates say now is the time to make …

This, year the theme of Sea Otter Awareness Week is the species' key role in the mosaic of the ecosystem. (Wikimedia Commons)


MONTEREY BAY, Calif. - This week, conservation groups are celebrating Sea Otter Awareness Week with online and in-person events across the state…


LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Admission to any state park in Nevada is free this coming Saturday, as part of the first Nevada Public Lands Week - with a series …

Social Issues

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A new Redistricting Advisory Council announced last week by Gov. Tom Wolf's office will focus on reducing gerrymandering as new …


Phone: 303.448.9105 Toll Free: 888.891.9416 Fax: 208.247.1830 Your trusted member and audience-supported news source since 1996 Copyright 2021