Demand rises for heat help - Beloit Daily News

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.