More expected to need financial help for heating

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.