Governor Bill Owens is proposing an additional $20 million this winter to help low-income families pay their heating bills.
The money will go to the Low-income Energy Assistance Program. It comes from mineral and energy severance taxes, which have been used in the past to help families pay their utilities.
Owens says as energy prices continue to rise, more people every year struggle to make ends meet. The Legislature would have to approve Owens' request before the money could be used in the LEAP program.
The governor's budget proposal released last month proposed using $10 dollars in mineral and severance tax revenue for the program. But Owens says rising natural gas prices have resulted in growing demands on the program.
LEAP manager Glenn Cooper of the Department of Human Services estimates up to 105,000 families will get assistance from the program this year. Last year, about 96,000 families were given aid. A qualifying family would get about $500 this winter -- up from the current average of about $300. LEAP funding is enhanced with private donations.
Earlier this month, Xcel Energy began seeking regulatory approval to raise consumer prices in January by $22.5 million -- averaging about 73 cents per month per household -- to cover rising wholesale prices.