Cold weather rule keeps the heat on

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Minnesota is known for cold winters and that means heating costs increase. What should people do if they are struggling to pay their heating bills? The Minnesota Cold Weather Rule (CWR) can help. The CWR exists to protect and reconnect your heat during the winter season. The rule helps you keep your electric and natural gas service on from October 15 through April 15 each year.

The rule applies to residential customers, including renters who pay their own utility bills. The rule does not cover delivered fuels, such as fuel oil, propane, or wood. You may apply for a CWR plan any time during the winter season.

Some people think that heat cannot be disconnected in the winter. But it can if you don’t pay your heating bill or do not have CWR protection. To keep your heat on all winter, you must make and abide by a CWR payment plan with your utility company.

Once you have a plan, it is important to stick to it. If you don’t, your utility company is not required to offer more arrangements. If it looks like you won’t be able to make your scheduled payment, call your utility company immediately to create a new payment plan.

Utilities offer different payment plans based on household income. To qualify for a reduced payment plan, your total household income must fall below 50 percent of the state median. You will not have to pay more than 10 percent of your household income toward current or past utility bills in any given month.

Most recent data shows the median annual income for a four-person household in Minnesota is $70,218. If your income is higher, you may still qualify for a reduced-payment plan with your utility.

To apply for help, contact your utility company to request a payment arrangement. All natural gas and electric utilities must follow some level of the rule.

If you and your utility company cannot agree upon a plan, you have 10 days to appeal to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The commission will help you set up a payment plan and your service will stay on during the appeal process.

For more information, visit the following webpages:

Rosemary K. Heins and Sharon Powell, Extension educators in family resiliency

Reviewed in 2018

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