KARE NBC 11
6:50 PM, Nov 29, 2011
ST. PAUL, Minn--Barb Shock LeMire has many memories in her West Saint Paul home. Her family of six has lived there for 15 years. She and her husband work. But tough times have forced them put their house on the market. While they wait for a buyer they are seeking financial help to pay the bills this winter.
Shock LeMire is one of more than 130,000 other Minnesotans who will apply for the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), this year.
But getting help may be tough. Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed a new formula for allocating funds which Sen. Amy Klobuchar said could slash aid to Minnesota by $160 million.
In October, Klobuchar along with Sen. Al Franken demanded senate leadership to provide full funding for the state. In a statement to KARE 11 on Tuesday Franken wrote he has "reached out to key senate leaders and the Obama Administration."
The results of those efforts remain to be seen.
Minnesota will receive funding in four to five lump sums. So far the state has received one payment of $73.5 million. But Commissioner of Commerce Mike Rothman said that's only 95 percent of the total first payment. He said he was unsure when the rest of the money would arrive.
Rothman said he expects a record number of people to apply for assistance this year and they will try to serve as many as possible.
"What we're going to do is tweak the system so we'll be able to serve more people with less on average," Rothman said.
That means for people like Shock LeMire the average assistance will be $400 this year instead of $500 like last year.
Klobuchar said not all hope is lost.
"It is not a done deal. We're working very hard to get this funding," Klobuchar said.
Shock LeMire keeps her home at a cool 62 degrees but her heating bill can still get up to $500 some months. She said the program could make or break her financially.
"Honestly there are times that it's the food bill or the energy bill," Shock LeMire said.
People who need help are still encouraged to apply. Those in need of help should still apply for the program. You can find out if you qualify by calling 1(800) 657-3710 or visiting www.energy.mn.gov.