More Minnesotans will be eligible for state help in paying high heating bills this winter.

Gov. Mark Dayton took executive action Tuesday to expand eligibility for the state’s heating assistance program. Now, households earning 60 percent of the state median income will be eligible. Previously, the limit was set at 50 percent.

That means a household of four earning less than $52,370 per year will now be eligible under the new guidelines. A household of two earning less than $35,612 will be eligible. For a complete list of income qualifications, see the Department of Commerce guidelines at For more information on the heating assistance program, including instructions on how to apply, go to the department’s energy assistance page at

Because of the change, the Commerce Department estimates that 30,000 to 40,000 newly eligible Minnesotans will apply for assistance.

Dayton is asking the federal government for increased heating assistance funding on top of the additional $15.8 million allocated for Minnesota last week. The state’s heating assistance program is projected to run out of money between March 10 and March 31, according to a news release. If the federal government does not provide more funding, Dayton will include $17 million in state funds for the program in his supplemental budget proposal, the release said.

Last week, the state established a toll-free hot line for Minnesotans affected by this winter’s propane shortage at 1-800-657-3504 in greater Minnesota or 651-297-1304 in the Twin Cities. The hot line had received more than 1,900 calls by midday Tuesday.

Dayton joined six Midwestern governors in signing a letter to President Obama asking the federal government to take “every possible action to help increase propane supplies through every means of transport.”

Meanwhile, state and propane industry officials are encouraging farmers who have excess propane in their tanks after drying crops during last fall’s harvest to sell it back to suppliers to help ease the shortage.