Applicants for energy assistance on the rise after 2 years of high prices

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The Community Action Partnership of Hennepin County is seeing a high increase in the need for financial assistance, following a two-year trend of high energy prices.

At the agency, energy assistance applications pour in by the hour.

“Our days have been crazy,” Tammy Stauffer, Community Action Partnership of Hennepin County director of energy assistance, said. “We currently have over 20,000 applications since we started taking applications in September.”

It’s an increase of about 700 applications compared to this time last year, according to Stauffer.

She’s been tracking a growing need for funds to help families pay utility bills for the last two years.

Stauffer said families are battling rising energy costs and inflation and for some people there’s not enough money to go around.

“They’re making the choice ‘Do I feed my family? Do I pay my mortgage? Do I pay my rent?’” she said.

Erick Garcia Luna, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis regional outreach director, took a deeper dive into the numbers.

“In the last two years, those pressures on people’s budgets are taking a toll,” Garcia Luna said.

He explained normally energy prices fluctuate, but for the last two years they’ve stayed high.

According to the Consumer Price Index, in Minnesota, electricity bills are up 24% and piped gas jumped 57%, compared to 20-21.

“People that are toward the lower end of the income bracket are being affected the most,” Garcia Luna said.

According to the findings, Black households are three times more likely to be affected compared to White households and for Hispanic families, it’s around twice as much.

“I understand this. I see it and you know I lived it,” Stauffer said.

Stauffer explained she was in a similar situation at one point in her life. She calls it a full circle moment.

“I just want to help people who were in my situation to be able to give them the hand that they need,” Stauffer said.

The agency is asking people waiting for funding to be patient. They explained they’re working as fast as they can to approve applications.

Apply for energy program assistance here.