With your help, we can answer a flood of calls for energy assistance.
“The most at-risk people in our state are the elderly and families with young children.”
There has been a flood of calls for energy assistance as funding questions hang in the balance, according to Timothy Bruer, executive director of Energy Services, Inc., a non-profit organization that administers the low income home energy assistance program in 15 counties, including Rock.
"This coming year we are receiving over 200 calls a day from the Beloit area in need of help. In times when the demand has increased, the outlook for funding from Washington looks bleak. We are still waiting on Congress to determine the fate of this program," Bruer said. "This is one of the most effective programs. It keeps kids out of crisis shelters and the elderly out of nursing homes."
He said that last year Energy Services Inc. provided $4.45 million in assistance to 7,968 households in Rock County alone. The average grant per household was $425. This year Energy Services Inc. requests have increased 30 percent over last year's record high call volume.
With a growing population of needy elderly, disabled people and young families with children more assistance is needed, Bruer said. Since Oct. 1, Energy Services has already helped 3,200 households that were facing disconnection from their utilities. There are 2,000 more households receiving assistance over the previous heating season.
The good new is that with the support of the United Way and area utilities Energy Services Inc. was able to identify thousands in need last summer.
"We were able to identify those households early to get them on budget plans or trying to get fuel in their tanks or furnaces," Bruer said. "We were able to identify those most at risk and qualify them early before subzero conditions were upon us."
Energy Services Inc. is located at 118 Eclipse Center, Beloit. The phone number is 1-800-333- 0333
Bruer encourages those in need to contact the organization as soon as possible. He said more than a third of the people coming in for services have never applied before, indicating the difficult economic times.
Bruer said many people have asked how they can help. He said that people can make donations to Keep Wisconsin Warm. People can visit the website at www.kwwf.org to make a contribution or can send a check to Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund, P.O. Box 68, Madison, WI 53701-0068. A donation form must be included with checks sent in. It can be found on the Web site, or for more information on making donations people can call 608-333-0809.
"Those dollars stay right here in the area and are used as a survival safety net for those in life threatening crises," Bruer said.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's Office of Energy Assistance announced on Nov. 1 that anyone eligible to receive winter heating assistance through the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) can apply.
This year, for the first time, LIHEAP clients will have the option of choosing between the traditional Direct Vendor Payment (DVP) plan or the new percentage of income payment plan (PIPP). The PIPP is available to eligible LIHEAP clients who are customers of Ameren Illinois, ComEd, Nicor Gas and Peoples Gas/North Shore Gas.
Under PIPP the eligible client will pay a percentage of income, receive a monthly benefit toward their utility bill, and receive a reduction in overdue payments for every on-time payment they make by the bill due date. The traditional DVP plan is a one-time payment.
Due to the start-up of PIPP. LIHEAP clients may experience longer wait times when applying for assistance, but should ultimately receive better service delivery.
A single-person household can qualify with a monthly income up to $1,361; a two-person household up to $1,839; a family of three can earn up to $2,316; and a family of four can earn up to $2,794. Benefits are paid directly to utilities on behalf of eligible households. The exception is households whose heating costs are included in their rent.
For a complete listing of LIHEAP's local administering agencies and additional information about the program, go to www.LiheapIllinois.com, or call the toll-free hotline at 1-877-411-WARM.
The Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund is dealing with budget cuts.
Tim Bruer, executive director of the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund, said an estimated 13,000 Dane County households will request assistance to pay heating bills by the end of the winter season.
"Heat, which is a basic necessity, is becoming an unaffordable luxury," Bruer said.
He said even with an unseasonably warm winter, the need for assistance doesn't lessen.
The fund also works to help with cooling bills in the hot months. Bruer said a record 3,000 households applied for assistance the last three months of summer.
"We actually saw more people coming in both to keep their power on but also paying for last year's heating costs," Bruer said.
Bruer said the fund is also contending with budget cuts.
The Federal Home Energy Assistance Program for low-income households provides a one-time grant per heating season. Grants went from $360 last year to $166 this year.
Bruer said he fears that by February, many households will exhaust their one-time grant.
"What you're seeing really is that people because of pride, in the past who have not come forward, are now coming forward," said Bruer. "Or, those who are the poorest of the poor, who really have no place to turn in crisis are contacting our organization"
Madison Gas and Electric, which refers customers to the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund, said the number of people seeking advice on paying high bills is down significantly. MG&E credited the mild winter and low natural gas prices for the decline.
For more information on the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund, go to http://www.kwwf.org/contribute/.
The number of households in Racine County expected to seek monetary help to stay warm this heating season is expected to increase to 13,000 — up 30 percent from the previous year, officials said Thursday
“The need has never been greater,” said Timothy Bruer, executive director of Energy Services Inc., 1654 Washington Ave. “Next to Milwaukee and Dane, Racine County is the third in demonstrating the most need (for energy assistance) in the state of Wisconsin.”
The nonprofit, on Nov. 11, became the go-to place for residents looking for help from the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP), which was previously administered in the county by the Community Action Agency.
Bruer said Energy Services, which serves 14 other counties in the state, received a one-year contract from the county to manage the program.
WHEAP provides a one-time grant assistance for heating and electric costs, and energy crisis situations during the heating season (Oct. 1-May 15). Eligibility and the amount received are based on factors including household size, income and energy bills.
Bruer said eligible households saved about $440 in energy costs last year, when about 10,000 households applied for energy assistance. This year, that number is expected to go up to 13,000.
“Many are simply victims of the economy and people’s unemployment are exhausting out,” he said. “Basic necessities are becoming unaffordable for thousands in Racine.”
But with the growing the number of people who will need assistance, along with looming cuts to federal and state funding which pays for the program, Bruer said, many of those who are eligible may not be served.
Bruer said the nonprofit’s focus is prevention, working with individual low-income households to keep their bills low. Ultimately, those “most at-risk,” which includes the elderly and families with young children, will likely receive help, Bruer said.
“We’re trying to serve people with a shrinking pie,” he said.
How to Get Help
To apply for the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program, call Energy Services Inc. at (262) 633-6000 and schedule an appoinment.