ST. PAUL (AP) — Minnesota is expanding the number of households that qualify for its Energy Assistance Program.

The changes announced by the Department of Commerce make over 600,000 Minnesota households income-eligible for the program.

During the previous program year, which ends Friday, about 116,000 Minnesota households applied and qualified.

The Energy Assistance Program helps households pay for current and past-due heating bills, including repair and replacement of broken heating systems. It can also help with water and sewer bills.

Minnesota's Cold Weather Rule takes effect Friday, 15 days earlier than before. The rule protects enrolled customers from having power or gas shut off.