Energy Assistance for low-income Minnesotans still available

Posted by Mitch on April 15, 2019 1:48 PM in Uncategorized

April 9, 2019 | Energy, Consumers

Cold Weather Rule protection ends April 15; Applications due May 31

For Immediate Release:

Weather Rule that protects Minnesotans from natural gas or electricity
shut-off will end on April 15, but that date, and the warmer weather,
does not necessarily mean Minnesota households are done struggling to
pay their energy bills. Households across the state are still paying the
price for high winter heating bills.

Minnesota Commerce Commissioner
Steve Kelley urges low-income residents who need help paying their
energy bills to apply for the state’s Energy Assistance Program (EAP)
and establish a payment plan with their utility, if they haven’t done so
already. Minnesotans using delivered fuels such as fuel oil, propane or
wood to heat their homes are also eligible for EAP grants even though
they are not covered by the Cold Weather Rule.

EAP funds are limited and households are served on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program on the Commerce website for information.

“I encourage seniors, veterans,
people with disabilities, families with children or anyone struggling to
pay their energy bills to apply for Energy Assistance. We want to make
sure that everyone stays warm and safe while we make it through the
spring,” said Kelley. “Funds are still available, so those in need
should apply now to make sure they can get the help they need.”

Act now to avoid disconnection

Kelley encourages Minnesotans
who struggle with heating costs to contact their utility now to
establish and maintain a monthly payment plan. Most payment plans under
the Cold Weather Rule last from October 15 until April 15. To avoid
disconnection after April 15, customers who still owe a balance on their
bill should contact their utility before the Cold Weather Rule ends and
ask if they can continue their payment plan or establish a new payment

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) administers the Cold Weather Rule. For more information on the rule, visit the PUC website, email, or call 651-296-0406 or 800-657-3782.

How to apply for Energy Assistance Program

The Commerce Department
administers EAP in partnership with 29 local service providers in the
state. The program helps renters and homeowners earning at or below 50
percent of the state’s median income ($49,698 for a family of four)
obtain grant money to help pay their heating bills. Energy assistance
funds go directly to the energy provider on behalf of eligible
households. The average annual grant per household is about $545.

Last year, the program helped
more than 126,000 Minnesota households. EAP is federally funded through
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

To apply for EAP, contact the local service provider in your county. To determine your service provider, visit the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program
on the Commerce website or call 1-800-657-3710. Applications must be
received or postmarked by May 31, 2019 for EAP benefits for the
2018-2019 program year benefits.


Rent reporting program a good fit for Crookston?

Posted by Mitch on March 20, 2019 8:01 AM in Uncategorized

Proponents say it motivates people to pay rent on time and, therefore, improve their credit

A University of Minnesota Crookston alum has been working with Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc. on bringing his company’s rent reporting program to the area which could help people improve their credit.

During Tuesday’s Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority board meeting at RiverView Health, Tri-Valley Executive Director Jason Carlson gave a brief overview of Esusu Financial Inc.’s rent reporting concept saying it’s a way to help motivate people to pay their rent and help build credit at the same time.

Esusu was co-founded by UMC alum Wemimo Abbey, who is also the founder of Clean Water for Everyone, an African social venture providing access to clean water for over 100,000 people in six countries. Esusu has recently expanded to offer rent reporting for people “confident” in their abilities to make on-time rental payments for the foreseeable future as Esusu reports on both on-time and missed payments.

Participating landlords or property managers work with Esusu to provide information on their renter’s payments and Esusu reports that information to credit bureaus. They can report up to two years or 24 months of past rental payment history as long as the renter was on the same lease they are currently on. Esusu says it takes typically two to four weeks before a tenant’s reported rent payments will appear on their credit report.

“It’s impossible to promise or predict a certain score increase because every person has a unique credit risk profile, and multiple factors impact a person’s score, but people who verify two years of rental history and who already have established credit could potentially see an increase of 25-50 points if their rental history does not contain any late payments,” says Esusu’s website,

Carlson said the concept was brought to him by Michelle Christopherson, UMC Director of Outreach and Community Engagement, and he then set up a meeting with Abbey and Tri-Valley’s Community Services Program Director Maureen Hams.

“It’s amazing the passion they (Esusu) have for this project,” Carlson boasted. “They left corporate jobs to do this.”

Carlson said he’d like to work with CHEDA’s Executive Director Craig Hoiseth and staff to see if this is a fit for Crookston. UMN Crookston Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause added that they are piloting the program on the Crookston campus, as well as in New York, and UMC students are learning about financial literacy and how to figure out their resident payments.

Lee Testifies for the Good Food Access Fund Hearing to the Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, Housing and Finance Committee

Posted by Mitch on March 19, 2019 1:44 PM in Uncategorized

(Crookston, Minn.)- Senator Mark Johnson asked
Jami Lee, Tri-Valley Child Nutrition Manager to testify on behalf of Tri-Valley
for the Good Food Access Fund hearing to the Senate Agriculture, Rural
Development, Housing, and Finance Committee on Monday, March 18.

Lee says, “1 in 4 community members impacted by
food access challenges are children.  It is critical that low-income
families have access to healthy food within a reasonable distance. This is why
supporting continuous funding for such an important topic is so vital.”

The Good Food Access Fund (S.F. 1354) helps address the problem of Minnesotans having limited or no access to healthy, affordable foods, like fruits and vegetables, dairy, whole grains, lean meats and poultry.  The limited access increases health related risks and aids in the alarming increased rate of obesity in today’s society.  The Good Food Access Program has proven positive impacts on improving access to healthy, affordable foods while boosting Minnesota’s local economy.

(Photo) – Jami is third from the right

Jami Lee (Nutrition Services Manager) speaks at a press conference for the farm to school bill at the capitol.

Posted by Mitch on February 13, 2019 3:13 PM in Head Start

Jami Lee (Nutrition Services Manager) speaks at a press conference for the farm to school bill on Wednesday, February 13, at the capitol.

WHAT IS “FARM TO HEAD START?” “Farm to Head Start” is a type of Farm to Early Care initiative. Farm to Early Care initiatives connect young children with healthy, locally grown foods and support farmers in their communities. Farm to Early Care’s three core components are serving locally grown foods in Early Care meals and snacks, offering food and farming-related educational activities for children and organizing food and farming-related family engagement activities.

Tri-Valley Opportunity Council operates a unique Head Start program, serving the children of migrant farm workers who travel to Minnesota during the growing season. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy recognized the opportunity to create a meaningful connection for children between their families’ deep ties to farming and the foods in their meals through Farm to Head Start activities. Relatively new to her position as Tri-Valley’s Nutrition Services Manager, Jami was eager to find new ways to help children develop positive eating habits. She also recognized the potential for Farm to Head Start to help meet that goal, and was enthusiastic about the idea of supporting farmers while teaching children where their food comes from. Both IATP and Tri-Valley saw Farm to Head Start as a chance to highlight the crucial work migrant families do to feed the community.

The 2019 Farm to Head Start Case Study

Tri-Valley Opportunity Council to Hold Community Forums in Crookston, Warren, and Ada

Posted by Mitch on February 7, 2019 10:04 AM in Uncategorized

Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc. will hold three community forums in the month of February. Two of the forums will be held on Wednesday, February 20. The Polk County community forum will be held in Crookston at the Crookston Family Service Center (1407 Erskine St.) and will run from 9-10 am. The Marshall County community forum on February 20 will be held in Warren at the Marshall County Courthouse (meeting room 1) from 2-3 pm. On Thursday, February 21, the Norman County community forum will be held in Ada at the Norman County Courthouse Annex (conference room next to Sheriff’s office) from 2 – 3 pm. These forums are free and the public is encouraged to attend. Refreshments will be provided.
We Value Your Opinion!

Tri-Valley’s Community Forums focus on the needs of the service area,
community needs, community strengths, and existing and potential services
offered by Tri-Valley. Please mark your calendars and plan to attend!  

For more information on, or directions to Tri-Valley’s Community Forums,
please contact Mitch Bakken at 1-800-584-7020 or



Family Service Center (Crookston)
February 20
– 10:00 AM
Marshall County
Community Forum

County Courthouse (Warren)
February 20
– 3:00 PM
Norman County
Community Forum
Building (Ada)
February 21
– 3:00 PM

MNsure reaches record-setting sign-up numbers in sixth open enrollment period

Posted by Mitch on January 16, 2019 1:39 PM in MNsure

CONTACT: Marie Harmon

MNsure reaches record-setting sign-up numbers in sixth open enrollment period

123,731 Minnesotans sign up for private health coverage

ST. PAUL, Minn.—MNsure reported strong numbers during its sixth open enrollment period, which ended Sunday. Nearly 400 more Minnesotans signed up for coverage than during the previous open enrollment period, which ended with 123,334 sign-ups.

“Despite uncertainty on the federal level and decreased sign-ups across the country, MNsure maintains strong footing and improved on its record-breaking sign-ups from last year,” said CEO Nate Clark. “It is evident that Minnesotans see the value of comprehensive coverage.”

Over 57 percent of households qualified for advanced premium tax credits (APTC) averaging nearly $5,520 a year.

“Lower premiums, an extended open enrollment period, and a robust outreach program all contributed to our success this year,” said Clark. “These advantages have helped ensure Minnesotans can get the health care coverage they need.”

Across the state, yearly APTC averages for households were:

  • Southeast Minnesota—$9,228
  • Northeast Minnesota—$5,448
  • Southwest Minnesota—$8,532
  • Twin Cities Metro—$4,176
  • Northwest Minnesota—$6,156

MNsure saw strong engagement with its new plan comparison tool, which allowed Minnesotans to easily and efficiently preview plans and estimate financial assistance. Over the course of the next year, MNsure will roll out additional improvements to its individual shopping and enrollment platform.


Private health plan sign-ups—123,731
Public program applicants—104,707
Total accessing coverage—228,438
Percentage receiving tax credits—57 percent
Average yearly tax credit by household—$5,520
Call volume—120,429 sessions—1,801,970
Plan comparison tool sessions—234,272

MNsure’s sixth open enrollment period ran from November 1, 2018 to January 13, 2019. Minnesotans can still enroll if they experience a qualifying life event, such as having a baby, getting married, moving to a new area, or losing other health coverage. More information about special enrollment can be found here.

Meeker-McLeod-Sibley Healthy Communities Leadership Team receives Certificate of Recognition for Contributions to Public Health

Posted by Mitch on November 9, 2018 2:19 PM in Uncategorized

Pictured left to right: Rachel Fruhwirth, Sibley County Public Health Supervisor; Allie Elbert, Meeker-McLeod-Sibley Community Health Services Administrator; Nancy Mellesmoen, CLT Vice-Chair, Tri-Valley Opportunity Council; Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Minnesota Department of Health; Mary Bachman, Meeker-McLeod Sibley SHIP and CLT Coordinator; Mike Huberty, Meeker County Commissioner.

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm praised the recipients for their service to their communities as well as their work to improve health and reduce health inequities. “We are fortunate in Minnesota to have so many talented and dedicated people working to protect, maintain and improve our health,” Commissioner Malcolm said. “These awards recognize our public health professionals, elected officials, and volunteers for the many ways they help make Minnesota’s residents and communities healthier.”

At this ceremony, the Meeker-McLeod-Sibley Healthy Communities Leadership received a Certificate of Recognition for their commitment and contributions to advance public health locally. In its 20 years of operation, the MMS Healthy Communities Leadership Team works to coordinate health promotion and maximize its resources. It serves as the community health board’s SHIP community leadership team, provides competitive mini-grants to community projects focused on priority health issues, and coordinates a joint community health needs assessment with local hospitals. Through collaboration, the group tackles priorities together, like creating portable breastfeeding stations and addressing barriers to preschool transportation.

Allie Elbert, Meeker-McLeod-Sibley Community Health Services, and Nancy Mellesmoen, Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, accepted this award on behalf of the MMS Healthy Communities Leadership Team.

For more information on the Meeker-McLeod-Sibley Healthy Communities Leadership Team, please visit .

Tri-Valley Foster Grandparent Program Holds Recognition Luncheon

Posted by Mitch on November 8, 2018 9:00 AM in Foster Grandparent Program, Senior Programs

Art Wood, Kathryn Haider, Mary Steinbrenner, Doris Pontow, Linda Stelzer

The Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc. Foster Grandparent Program held its annual recognition luncheon at the Crookston Eagles Club on Wednesday, October 10, 2018.

Jeanette Larson, Senior Programs Manager began the event by welcoming the Foster Grandparents and guests to the banquet. Jason Carlson, Tri-Valley’s CEO thanked all of the volunteers for the difference they are making in the lives of others in our communities.  Jason then introduced the newly hired Director of Senior Programs, Marley Melbye. Marley shared about herself and how excited she is to begin this position and how she is looking forward to working with the Foster Grandparent Program.  Kristal Abrahamson then introduced the Advisory Board members.

Sally Erickson was the speaker for the day.  Sally Erickson holds degrees in Business and English Writing from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. She has spent most of her career as a technical writer in the software industry.  She has also written a book entitled Letters to HEAVEN.  This is Sally’s story about cancer, death, and hope.  The volunteers really enjoyed her presentation.

Following Sally’s message, the “World of Difference” awards were given to individuals who were nominated by professional staff at their volunteer site. “With the little things you do every day, your impact spreads far and wide. Your commitment to improving lives inspires and motivates us all… You make a world of difference.” is engraved on the award along with the recipients’ name.

Milo Trangsrud and Jean Halvorson (Foster Grandparent Coordinator)

Recipients of the World of Difference Award are Grandma Doris Pontow (Discovery Place Early Learning Center, Thief River Falls, 6 year volunteer), Grandpa Milo Trangsrud (Challenger Elementary School, Thief River Falls, 2 year volunteer), Grandma Kathryn Haider (St, Michaels School, Mahnomen, 6 year volunteer),  Grandma Mary Steinbrenner (Magelssen Elementary, Fosston, 4 year volunteer),  Grandma Linda Stelzer (St. Joseph’s Elementary, Moorhead 2 year volunteer) and Grandpa Art Wood (Dorothy Dodds Elementary School, Moorhead 1 year volunteer) .

For more information on how to become a Foster Grandparent, Caring Companion or how to receive Caring Companion services, please call Marley, Jeanette, Jean, or Kristal at 1-800-584-7020.

Stakeholders, partners and reps of Crookston’s new Agassiz Townhomes gathered Thursday to celebrate the near completion of the project

Posted by Mitch on November 1, 2018 3:23 PM in Uncategorized

(Courtesy of the Crookston Times)

Although a scheduling conflict led to the postponement of public tours of Crookston’s new, 30-unit townhome complex on North Broadway, various stakeholders, partners and representatives of other agencies who helped make the project a reality gathered in the U of M Crookston’s Bede Ballroom on Thursday to celebration the (near) completion of the project.

Informational Session on Need for Child Care to be Held on Monday, November 5

Posted by Mitch on October 23, 2018 2:09 PM in Community Assistance Programs

(Crookston, Minn.)- At a recent Crookston city council meeting, the topic of lack of child care and licensed child care options in in the city went from important to urgent and has become one of the community’s “most pressing issues”. But how do we change this?

Have you ever thought about opening your own child care business but have some questions? If so, you’re in luck. There will be an informational session on Monday, November 5 at 6:30 pm in the Tri-Valley boardroom located at 102 N. Broadway in Crookston.

Did you know? There are multiple options in the field of child care. You can provide child care in your home. You can open a family child care business in a space other than your home.  You can partner with someone or be on your own. To answer some of those questions, staff from Child Care Aware and the Polk County Child Care Licensor will provide information on family child care licensing. There will also be information on startup grants to help you get into the business and door prizes!

If you cannot attend the meeting but have an interest in child care and you would like to ask some questions, please contact Maureen Hams at 218-281-5832 or

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