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CenterPoint Energy urges qualifying customers to apply for energy assistance dollars still available
The deadline for application is near

MINNEAPOLIS - June 24, 2009 - CenterPoint Energy representatives are available to refer customers to agencies that may be able to help customers through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) grant process, so they can get the dollars they need to catch up on past due natural gas payments and avoid service shut-off. The state of Minnesota will accept LIHEAP applications through the close of business July 2.

“Due to the economy there is a whole new group of customers that are struggling,” said Greg Schirmers, CenterPoint Energy credit manager. “They are often unaware of the assistance available to them - so we are looking for every opportunity to communicate how our customers can get the assistance they need.”

Lower natural gas prices have brought relief to customers resulting in cost savings essential to low income families. According to the Department of Energy’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, natural gas will cost less in 2009 than other energy sources. The Cost of Gas on a customer’s bill, which changes monthly depending on market prices, is passed on directly to customers with no mark-up and makes up about 80 percent of a natural gas bill. “This is good news for our customers,” said David Baker, CenterPoint Energy’s vice president of gas operations in Minnesota. “Since the projected cost of natural gas is lower than other heating fuels and three times lower than electricity, our customers are saving money and now is the time they can catch up on past due payments and enroll in a budget billing plan to stay ahead. We want our customers to know that natural gas continues to be the best energy value when compared to other heating sources, and the best way to manage their bill is to take advantage of our conservation programs, rebate programs, enroll in CenterPoint Energy’s bill payment programs and apply for energy assistance through local agencies.”

Customers who provide proof of income and meet income guidelines set by the state of Minnesota at or below 50 percent of the state median income are eligible. The program, funded by U.S. Department of Human Services and administered by the state Office of Energy Securities, provides grants based on household size, income, fuel type and energy usage costs. The program provides direct payment to the customer’s energy provider.  See the table below for specific guidelines.

Maximum eligible income for program dates
Oct. 1, 2008 - Sept. 30, 2009

LIHEAP

By taking a few steps now, customers can avoid service shut-offs, and save energy and money:

Call CenterPoint Energy:

  • Customers who are having trouble or anticipate difficulty paying their natural gas bills can call us now to develop a payment plan at 1-612-372-4680 or 1-800-729-6164 or visit the company’s Web site at www.centerpointenergy.com/paybill.

Join CenterPoint Energy’s Budget Billing Plan:

  • Customers should also consider getting on CenterPoint Energy’s Budget Plan. By spreading your payments evenly throughout the year, you have a predictable, levelized payment each month and avoid high winter bill peaks.

Schedule a low-cost energy audit:

Get rebates for installation of energy saving equipment:

  • CenterPoint Energy's package of energy saving programs for efficient natural gas equipment can lower energy use and operating costs for both home and business owners; visit www.centerpointenergy.com/rebates to find out more.

Obtain state information on how to apply:

  • The Stay Warm Minnesota campaign was launched to help every Minnesota family experience a safe and comfortable winter. Visit www.staywarm.mn.gov for useful information regarding energy efficiency and heating assistance programs provided by the federal and state government, private industry, nonprofits and energy utilities. Minnesota residents must complete a Minnesota Energy Programs application form online or obtain an application by calling 1-800-657-3710.

Customers interested in helping others pay their bill can support the Salvation Army’s HeatShare program. Visit www.Heatshare_MN.org to make a donation.

CenterPoint Energy, Inc., headquartered in Houston, Texas, is a domestic energy delivery company that includes electric transmission and distribution, natural gas distribution, competitive natural gas sales and services, interstate pipelines and field services operations. The company serves more than five million metered customers primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. Assets total over $19 billion. With about 8,800 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 130 years. In Minnesota, CenterPoint Energy is the state’s largest natural gas distribution utility, serving nearly 790,000 customers in 260 communities. The utility also operates a non-regulated business in Minnesota called Home Service Plus®. For more information, visit the Web site at www.centerpointenergy.com.

For more information contact
Becca Virden
Phone 612.321.4879
Pager 612.531.1234