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Energy assistance program sees increase in demand after bitter cold and rising fuel prices


The Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program wasn’t seeing a high number of applications in the early months of the winters.

Barbara Klug attributes that to a couple of different factors. She’s the Bureau Director of the Home Energy Plus Program within the Division of Energy, Housing, and Community Resources in Wisconsin.

Klug says they were able to use federal pandemic funding to pay off customers’ bills last winter just as the heating moratorium was ending.

That opened up its other funding to pay off other utilities leading into the winter.

“We used some of that to pay off the Class A utilities, the invest your own utilities, those five, and then the co-op and the municipals, we paid off those customers arrears. Then we also did a bulk fuel sale. That was toward the end of the summer. Trying to get everybody prepared for this winter that we’re in right now,” said Klug.

Between that, more people working, and the child tax credit payments, it appeared most people were able to keep up with their heating and other bills through the early months of this winter.

Then the child tax credit ended on December 31, 2021. And the cost to heat homes started rising just as Wisconsin was entering its coldest months of the year.

Now, Klug says applications for heating assistance are increasing.

“We are peaking up. We were down in caseloads in the end of December, probably about just shy of 10%. Now we’re just under 4% so we are climbing in caseload compared to last year,” she said.

Klug says there’s plenty of funding available to help people pay off their heating bills. Once your eligible for that, you’d likely be eligible for other programs than can help with paying for other utilities, lowering your energy costs, and even rent assistance.

“Once they come in and apply for energy assistance, it really opens up the door for other programs. It gets them in. It’s kind of like a portal,” said Klug.

Eligibility is based on income. You can learn more and apply through Home Energy Plus. You can also call 1-866-HEAT-WIS for information and to apply.

“If you are having a hard time paying your bill and if you’re just even giving up some of your medication or food to pay your energy bills, please just call to apply,” said Klug.

The heating moratorium in Wisconsin ends April 15th.