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Energy assistance funds on hold at federal level

Future funding for the Energy Assistance Program is in limbo.

The program helps low-income households pay home heating bills. Payments are made directly to the household's fuel dealer.

Nancy Cummings, Energy Programs Coordinator for Mahube, said her office has processed about 2,500 applications so far and is working on about 500 more.

"It has been very busy," she said.

All qualified households that submitted applications before Dec. 1 will receive funding. However, applications taken after Dec. 1 will be on hold until the agency receives word about federal funding.

"We're expecting to receive more but we're not sure how much we'll be getting," Cummings said. "I do expect some funds to come through."

She encourages people to continue submitting applications because when funding comes in those applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Last season the agency took in about 3,800 applications and spent about $1.8 million to help people heat their homes, she said.

Eligibility is based on household gross income for the past three months, household size and consumption for the past 12 months. Other guidelines include:

n Applicants may rent or own their home.

n Households must provide proof of income when they apply.

n There are no deductions from income.

n Households may also be eligible for repair or replacement of nonfunctioning heating systems.

To apply for energy assistance go to to download an application or stop by the local Mahube office.

Cummings said households should also be aware of Cold Weather Rule protection.

The Cold Weather Rule helps restart service for the heating season and keep heat on between Oct. 15 and April 15. To get Cold Weather Rule protection, a person must contact the energy companies and make and keep a payment plan. If a person misses a payment the protection will be lost.

"It isn't automatic," Cummings reiterated. "People do need to apply and come up with a payment plan and make payments."

Cummings is hopeful more federal funding will be available for energy assistance.

"We just have to wait and see," she said.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561