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As Minnesotans brace for huge gas bills, state ups assistance to $1200

Texas wasn't the only state impacted by February's arctic blast.

If you're worried about huge increases in your monthly heating bill because of what happened in Texas, you're not alone — and help may be available. 

The Minnesota Department of Commerce has announced it's increasing its maximum annual crisis benefit from $600 to $1,200 for qualifying households, with the aim of helping residents "pay energy bills, get reconnected or prevent energy disconnection, get fuel delivered, learn about efficiency and safety, and repair or replace homeowners’ broken heating systems."

This comes after the revelation that Minnesotans could see up to $400 in extra heating costs because of the strain on natural gas supplies — however, those costs may not show up on energy bills for months. 

According to a release from the Commerce Department, both renters and homeowners can apply for the crisis benefit, while "households with young children, people with disabilities, veterans, seniors and those experiencing unemployment or financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are especially encouraged to apply."

You have until May 31, 2021 to apply, though "funding is limited and administered on a first-come, first-served basis." There are a few ways to sign up. 

The state says you can apply with your local service provider, call 800-657-3710 and press 1, or visit the Commerce Department’s Energy Assistance Program webpage.

The spike in Minnesota's natural gas prices are currently the subject of an investigation by commerce officials

In Texas, the epicenter of the weather crisis, customers have seen astronomical increases in energy costs, with electricity prices soaring by 10,000%, CNN reported.

The New York Times notes one resident who kept his lights on during the winter storm — and ended up with a bill for $16,752.

There are widespread reports of similarly exorbitant bills across the state, leading to a public outcry and an emergency meeting between Texas Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this month.

Investigations into the pricing crisis are now underway in the Lone Star State. 

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