Utility shutoff protections and bill assistance

 

Utility shutoff protections and bill assistance

This page is updated regularly. Last updated on June 17, 2021

 

If you have questions or run into problems, CUB can help. Contact us: 651-300-4701, info@cubminnesota.org, or Facebook message.

 

Utility bills and disconnection

If you are behind on your bills and are worried about your service being disconnected, CUB recommends:

  • Call your utility and ask to arrange a payment plan that works given your personal financial circumstances. If your financial circumstances change and you are no longer able to follow your payment arrangement, contact your utility again and ask to restructure the arrangement based on your new situation.
  • Check if you are eligible for Energy Assistance or other funding. (See below on this webpage for more information.) Many of these opportunities have been expanded this year, so you may qualify for funding even if you wouldn’t qualify in a normal year.
  • If you require electricity service for medically necessary equipment, the utility must keep your service on or reconnect service if it has been shut off. You will need to provide certification from a medical provider. If you have an overdue balance, you can be required to make a payment plan. Contact your utility so they are aware of your medical need, and they will tell you what you must provide.

CUB will advocate for you if you run into difficulties: info@cubminnesota.org or 651-300-4701. We’ll help you keep your service on, and knowing which utilities are disconnecting people helps us advocate for everyone.

 

Rules for regulated utilities

The following applies to CenterPoint Energy, Dakota Electric Association, Great Plains Natural Gas, Greater Minnesota Gas, Minnesota Energy Resources, Minnesota Power, Otter Tail Power, and Xcel Energy.

  • These utilities will be permitted to resume disconnections for nonpayment on August 2, 2021. They had been prohibited from disconnecting residential customers since spring of 2020, but the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission recently approved a transition plan allowing disconnections to resume. Customers who are far enough behind on their bills to trigger a disconnection should receive a notice from their utility in May detailing the plan, and disconnection notices will start being sent on June 1.
  • Customers who have pending or approved applications for Energy Assistance will not be disconnected through April 30, 2022. If you think you qualify for Energy Assistance, we recommend applying as soon as you can. For 2021 only, you may apply for Energy Assistance until September 1, and any household who earned less than 60% of the state median income during the most recent 3 months qualifies. (This is higher than the income limit in a typical year.)
  • You will not be disconnected or charged fees if you make and stay up to date on a payment arrangement with your utility through April 30, 2022. Customers who are on payment arrangements will not be subject to service deposits, down payments, interest, late payment charges, or business hour reconnection fees if they have been shut off.
 

Rules for unregulated cooperative and municipal utilities

Unregulated cooperative and municipal (city-run) utilities are not subject to this order, and each cooperative or municipal utility has its own disconnection policy. However, everyone has the right to make a payment arrangement that takes into account their household’s financial circumstances. If you are behind, contact your utility and ask to arrange a payment plan.

 

Resources for paying utility bills

 

Low Income Energy Assistance Program

The Energy Assistance Program (EAP or LIHEAP) provides financial help to income-qualified households for covering natural gas and electric bills. 

Household
size
3-month max.
income
Annual
income
1$8,479$33,918
2$11,088$44,355
3$13,697$54,791
4$16,307$65,228
5$18,916$75,664
Eligibility is based on the most recent three months of income.
See full chart for larger household sizes.

For the 2020-2021 program year, Energy Assistance is available for households with income at or below 60 percent of the state median income. Only the past three months of income are counted, and recent stimulus payments or pandemic unemployment insurance premiums are not counted. The income threshold was increased from 50 percent of state median in April 2021, so if you were slightly above the income threshold previously, you may now qualify. 

Applications must be received or postmarked by September 1, 2021 for Energy Assistance for the 2020-2021 program year. Assistance is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you think you might be eligible, contact your local Energy Assistance provider.

Find your Energy Assistance provider by county or tribal government.

 

 

Electricity and gas affordability programs

Income-qualified households in many areas can receive discounts on their electric or gas service through their utility, and some utilities will even forgive a portion of past-due bills. See the links below to see if your utility has an affordability program. You must qualify for or receive Energy Assistance in order to participate in these programs. Each utility’s program is different, so contact your utility or the organization listed at the appropriate link below to find out more and apply. 

Other COVID-related assistance

RentHelp MN offers support for renters who are behind on rent or fear that could happen. The program is in phase one, which means the program is currently working with renters who owe back rent. The program will accept all other rent and utility assistance requests later. 

Renter households’ income may not exceed 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) [scoll to the bottom of the link for income requirements] for the area in which the household is located. Eligible Minnesota renters can receive help with rent and utility bills dated on or after March 13, 2020. If you qualify, you could receive up to 15 months total assistance.

To apply for RentHelpMN or if you have questions, visit renthelpmn.org or call 211. The 211 helpline has multilingual staff available to answer questions about the program.

Help for homeowners is on the way. Sign up for email updates on mortgage assistance.

Help with internet costs will be available through the FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB).

 

Personalized recommendations to reduce your bill

CUB offers individual utility bill consultations to anyone in Minnesota free of charge. During this time, we are providing consultations via telephone or video call.

A phone consultation takes about 30 minutes and saves the average household $150 in the first year. Households with higher energy bills can save much more.

Contact us: info@cubminnesota.org or 651-300-4701.

 

Energy conservation tips

Check out CUB’s energy efficiency tips for advice for this spring and year-round.

 

Other resources

Your local county, the Salvation Army, community social service agencies, local houses of worship, or campus student services (if you or someone in your household is a college student) may offer additional help to pay utility bills.

 

Beware of scams

Utilities have reported an uptick in scammers taking advantage of the COVID-19 emergency. A caller may demand immediate payment to prevent your service from being disconnected.

  • Never give out your banking information by email or phone. Utility companies won’t demand payment by phone. 
  • Utilities won’t force you to pay immediately as your only option.
  • Utilities won’t demand payment by gift card, cash reload card, wiring money, or cryptocurrency.
  • If you receive any suspicious calls, hang up and call your utility back to ask if it was them.

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