Officials with the state Commerce Department are reminding Minnesotans that there is assistance available to help cover the cost of higher heating bills this winter.  Minnesota Energy Assistance Program director Michael Schmitz says applications for heating aid are up ten to 15 percent compared to last fall:

“If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills or if you know somebody who’s struggling it might be a neighbor, a friend, a relative I really encourage you to apply yourself or help those folks that you know who are struggling to apply.”

Schmitz says the state’s Cold Weather Rule protects homeowners and renters from disconnection during the winter,  but you have to set up a payment plan with your utility.   Natural gas prices are about ten percent higher than last heating season.