Propane users in Minnesota may get more help from the state

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With plenty of cold weather still in the forecast for Minnesota, people who use propane for heating their homes are still facing a shortage.

A state House committee met Monday to discuss a $20 million boost in funding for a heating assistance program, the Associated Press reports. Afterward, House leaders said they would seek to suspend the rules Tuesday, the first day of the new session, to take up the measure.

An estimated 250,000 Minnesota households use propane to heat their homes, mostly in rural areas. The state has already increased the amount of money available to low-income families for heating assistance to nearly $115 million, after the federal government gave Minnesota an additional $15 million late last month.

Propane prices have shot up dramatically over the past few months, peaking at $4.67 per gallon at the end of January. The price has fallen to an average of $3.27 a gallon last week, according to the Winona Daily News. But that's still well above the average price of $1.67 per gallon a year ago at this time.

It's not just homeowners affected by the propane shortage. Minnesota livestock farmers are struggling, too. WCCO recently spoke with a turkey farmer in Northfield who has thousands of baby turkeys who need to be in 80-to-90 degree temperatures. He has a 12,000-gallon propane tank that will cost at least twice as much to fill as he budgeted for, according to WCCO. But he's most concerned about whether there will be propane available for him to buy.

Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, notes in the Albert Lea Tribune that the shortage of propane is gradually easing, as wholesalers are ramping up shipments of the fuel by rail and truck into Minnesota.

Residents who have questions or concerns about the propane shortage can call the state's propane hotline at 651-297-1304 in the metro area or 1-800-657-3504 in Greater Minnesota. More information about the low-income heating assistance program is available on the Commerce Department's website, or by calling 1-800-657-3710.

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