The Obama administration will release nearly $16 million in emergency funds to help Minnesota families and businesses hit hard by the state’s propane shortage.

The White House announced today that it will release more than $450 million, including $15.8 million in Minnesota and $14.2 million in Wisconsin, to help families heat their homes.

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken of Minnesota and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin wrote to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday, pleading for federal funds.

The Obama administration responded to the pleas Thursday as a severe cold snap bears down on much of the nation.

In Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton declared a state of emergency this week because of the rising costs and severe shortage of propane and other home heating fuels statewide.

Along with Dayton, Franken and Klobuchar, U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum, Rick Nolan, Collin Peterson and Tim Walz wrote President Obama over the weekend, requesting federal aid to deal with the crisis.

Franken also wrote two major railway companies, BNSF Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific, whose U.S. headquarters is in Minneapolis, urging them to increase propane shipments to Minnesota.

“Households and businesses in my state have seen significant spikes in the price of propane fuel during the severe winter cold,” Franken wrote. “Any further reduction in supply, and resulting increase in price, could leave my constituents without heat during a life-threatening cold snap.”

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