The Minnesota state government has established a Cold Weather Rule that will assist customers who can’t afford to pay their gas or heating bill in full. This is only effective during the fall, winter, and spring months, and the goal is to ensure families have some source of heat for their home.
The Minnesota Cold Weather Rule will ensure customers do not have their heating or utility service shut off during the cold weather months, from October 15 - April 15. All utility and gas companies need to participate and offer this program to customers. For those customers that enroll, they need to be willing to enter into a payment plan with their utility company, and they need to continue to make those payments on a monthly basis.
If you are behind on your bill and facing a service disconnection, you should immediately contact your utility company and ask them about this program. There are certain conditions, including customers need to meet income guidelines that are established by the Minnesota Public Utility Commission, and they also need to negotiate a payment plan, and adhere to it.
Also, it is important to note that the Minnesota Cold Weather Rule won’t completely stop winter disconnection’s, but it will provide customers with extra protections and rights from October 15 through April 15 of each year.
For example, in order to avoid service disconnection or to have the service reconnected, you must pay your energy bill in full or you need to call your utility company and enter into a energy bill Payment Plan with them. In addition, you need to make each payment on time and need to keep the Payment Plan during the Cold Weather Rule months in order to continue to prevent a service disconnection.
All customers have the right to enter into and agree to a Payment Plan during the Cold Weather Rule months. To set up a Payment Plan, contact your utility company, ideally before you even fall behind on your bills. If you and the utility company can come to terms on a Payment Plan, and if you continue to make your payments as agreed to, your service will not be shut off during the wintertime. Many energy companies located in Minnesota also administer other conservation and financial assistance programs. Read more on those options.
You will need to prove your hardship to the energy provider. The Payment Plan will consider your personal financial circumstances and situation, and any extenuating circumstances, and the plan to be put into place needs to be acceptable to both you and the energy company. The plan will cover what you owe plus the amount you will be billed during the period of the Payment Plan.
While the exact terms of any agreement will vary, most payment plans put into place under the Cold Weather Rule will last until April 15 unless you agree on a different period. The monthly payment schedule will also vary based on many conditions, including the customer’s total household income. Also, if you and your utility company can’t agree to or come to terms on a Payment Plan, you will have a right to appeal this in the state of Minnesota.
During the winter months, there are many other resources for customers. This are in addition to the Cold Weather rule. Utility companies will also refer you to local organizations and community action agencies that may be able to help you pay your fuel bills, or that can refer you to other government programs.
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