By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As the temperatures drop, the cost to heat our homes is going up.

Natural gas customers could see a 49% increase in their winter heating bill this year. Propane users could see a 69% spike, and electric customers could see 5%.

But on Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz and the White House officials announced that help is on the way. They urged people to apply for American Rescue Plan funds to help with home heating costs, including bills that are past due.

“The average Minnesotan pays about 2% of their annual income on heating their homes, many pay above 30%,” Walz said.

The state has received $167 million from the rescue plan for for energy assistance grants and eligibility has been expanded; a family of four making $68,000 could qualify.  Available grants range from $300 to $3,200 dollars, and can be used for heating, repairs, as well as water and sewer bills.

An earlier American Rescue Plan for rental assistance help was slow at first to get applications. But as of now, 52,000 Minnesotans have applied for aid here.

Still, $80 million is available to apply for in that rental help program.

The state is estimating that those funds will run out sometime after March of 2022, so as with the heating money, if you need help, apply now.

Esme Murphy