Hundreds sign up for energy assistance
Written by Julie Borgen, Twin Cities media relations director for The Salvation Army Northern Division
It may still be 70 and sunny outside, but Minnesotans know–winter is coming. And that can mean big energy bills.
“I dread the winter coming up,” said Bobby Morris. “A lot of us work every single day, but we still struggle.”
A warehouse manager, Morris drives 45 minutes each way to work every day. But as a single dad, the extra cost to keep the house warm in the winter adds up.
“Oh yes, I’ve struggled with those bills–trying to get kids through school, working to pay the rent and everything else, it’s tough,” Morris said.
That’s why he and hundreds of other Hennepin County residents lined up at the N. Lyndale Ave. Salvation Army today: to sign up for help with their utility bills.
“This is a great community effort,” said Matt Kirk, case manager at the North Minneapolis location and the organizer of the event.
Representatives from Xcel Energy, CenterPoint Energy and the Community Action Partnership of Suburban Hennepin County joined together to help those who qualify sign up for help with their winter utility bills.
There are also grants available to help cover utility costs in Hennepin County, for people whose annual income is $24,540 or less for a single person, or $47,192 or less for a family of four.
“Let’s set people up for success before winter hits, so when the cold weather comes, they’re ready,” Kirk said.
The Cold Weather Rule – which prevents utility companies from unlawfully turning off the heat during the winter months – takes effect on Oct. 15. However, customers who need assistance must set up a payment plan or their utilities can still be shut off.
“It’s vital that people realize they have to act if they need help covering their utility bills during the winter months,” said Mike McGlone, administrator of The Salvation Army’s energy assistance program. “Don’t expect the Cold Weather Rule to protect you, if you are behind on payments and have not contacted your gas and electric providers to make a plan.”
Calvin and Nisha Smith say between raising their six kids and paying for a house, that help is vital in the winter months.
“It can be rough, but you keep working and do what you need to do,” Calvin explained. “Everyone in the community should know there is help available to them.”
And that, Kirk says is exactly what this community outreach is all about.
“Every person we help is a joy, and that means mission accomplished,” he said.