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St Paul (KROC AM News) - A Rochester state lawmaker is hoping to extend a helping hand to businesses and residents who are going to be affected by an unexpected recent surge in natural gas prices.

Rochester Senator Dave Senjem found no opposition last week when his “2021 Polar Vortex Loan Account” bill was approved by the Minnesota Senate.

Senator Dave Senjem
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It would provide $15 million in interest-free loans that would be repaid over 5 years.

Senjem says due to varying factors from the polar vortex that occurred from February 12-17, the price of natural gas had an unprecedented surge for Texas and all the Midwest. This meant Minnesota businesses and customers were using more and paying much more at the same time.

Kim David/TSM

Senjem says some utilities spent their entire gas purchasing budget for the year during that one week.

He says the residential impact range is estimated from $250-$500 for a typical residence for those five days.

For businesses, an example was given where one business that typically spends $12,500 a month on gas could be facing a bill of $125,000,

“This is aimed to help those hardest hit during the natural gas spike,” Senjem said. “If you’re expecting a bill that’s usually $100 and it comes up to $400, many individuals will have a hard time paying for it; especially those hit hardest during the pandemic. This helps to continue the conversation on how we need to view and treat energy issues that arise in our state.”

The Polar Vortex Loan Account would grant municipal utilities the option to help pay their bills now and to spread consumer payments over a period of up to five years, instead of 9 to 12 months, and could greatly reduce the impact on both the utility and the consumers.

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