How we help meal recipients prepare for winter

The assembly line style meal packing team

Fall is in full swing, and with this comes colder temperatures. Meals on Wheels has a program that works to ensures people who get meals will have food, even when the weather doesn’t permit the regular meal delivery.

Because we all know planning ahead for winter is important, volunteers will pack more than 10,000 shelf-stable meals on October 25 for the Blizzard Box Blitz. A Blizzard Box is a meal that is delivered to Meals on Wheels clients that can be stored and then used at any time in case of emergency.

The boxes also contain information on local emergency services, as well as resources for heat assistance. We know that for people living on a fixed income, that monthly heating bill can be a big burden, especially during particularly cold winters. We owe a special thanks to SUPERVALU, who provides the food for the Blizzard Boxes and the volunteers who take time out of their work day to help pack them.

And if you’re struggling with household costs, you shouldn’t have to choose between food and paying the heating bill. Luckily, state and federal programs have been created to aid this very issue. If you or someone you know is struggling with paying the heating bill this winter, the following programs can help.

The Energy Assistance Program

The Energy Assistance Program (EAP) helps pay home heating costs and furnace repairs for income-qualified households. This program is federally funded and does not have to be paid back, as it is offered as a grant. Grants are available for both renters and homeowners, and are based on household size, income, fuel type, and energy use.

The services offered from the Energy Assistance Program may include:

  • Payment of energy bills
  • Help with utility disconnections or necessary fuel deliveries
  • Education on efficient and safe use of home heating energy
  • Advocacy with energy suppliers and human service providers on behalf of customers
  • Repair or replacement of homeowners’ malfunctioning heating systems

If you are interested, first find out if you are eligible by looking at the 2017 Maximum Energy Assistance Program Income Guidelines, then fill out an application and find your EAP provider.

Cold Weather Rule

The Cold Weather Rule (CWR) was created to help protect and reconnect your heat. All Electric and Natural Gas companies offer CWR protection. You can create a payment plan that will help make monthly heating bills more attainable, and prevent your heat from being turned off. You must make the CWR payment plan with your Electric or Natural Gas utility company to receive CWR protection. Different payment plans are offered based on household income and your electric or natural gas company.

The Cold Weather Rule season is Oct. 15-April 15. Payment plans must be established during this time.

To sign up contact your electric or natural gas company and request a Cold Weather Rule payment plan.

Low Income Weatherization Assistance Program

This program is supported by Minnesota Energy Resources who provide funds for Community Action Program (CAP) agencies. There is no cost for customers. The following improvements are funded through this program to assist with heating costs during the winter:

  • A standard energy audit
  • Blower door test and assisted air sealing
  • Side wall insulation
  • Attic insulation
  • Tuck under garages, foundations, crawl spaces, and rim joist insulation
  • Outdoor venting of dryers and exhaust fans
  • Caulking
  • Weatherstripping
  • Storm windows
  • Storm doors
  • Duct and pipe insulation in unfinished areas
  • Emergency heating system and water heating equipment replacement

In order to be eligible for this program you must meet state and federal guidelines. To find out if you qualify, contact the Community Action Program in your area.

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