Millions in Aid Available for Dane County Families Struggling with Home Heating Bills
December 17, 2007
6,000 Dane County Households Received Combined $2.6 Million in Past Year
Joshua Wescott, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 669-5606
(Madison)….Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced Monday that millions of dollars through various assistance programs are available to county residents struggling to afford to keep their homes warm this winter.
“Keeping warm during the bitter cold of a Wisconsin winter is costly and keeping up with utility bills can be challenging for families,” Falk said. “These dollars will help meet an increasing need in Dane County.”
More than 6,000 Dane County households received $2.6 million in one form of state heating assistance between October 1, 2006 and September 30, 2007. Dane County contracts with a local group, Energy Services Incorporated of Madison, to connect local families with these state dollars.
“It’s only December and county staff are getting calls from across the county from families who are worried about falling behind,” Falk said. “We’re especially concerned because it appears there is more of a need out there and it sure doesn’t seem like Mother Nature is going to take it easy on us this winter.”
Thanks to increases in another source of state funding, Dane County has more than $1.3 million available this winter for general emergency assistance for families and to facilitate energy assistance. That’s a $200,000 increase over a year ago.
In addition, the 2008 Dane County budget includes $430,000 in levy dollars dedicated to help families in times of crisis.
“We’ve seen people with seven or eight space heaters in their homes, places that have extension cords running everywhere, and families that use ovens to stay warm,” Falk said. “These are all dangerous practices we want to help people avoid.”
Falk, along with officials from Alliant Energy and Madison Gas and Electric, held a news conference Monday to remind citizens of this financial assistance and also of ways families can conserve, to help reduce chances they’ll get behind on bills this winter.
State law prohibits utilities from disconnecting households that get behind on payments during the winter months. However, those who aren’t caught up with their bills at the end of the so-called “winter moratorium” could be shut off in April.
Both Alliant and MG&E advise Dane County Human Services staff on which homes in the area are in the greatest amount of need. Through a county program called Joining Force for Families (JFF), the county utilizes 14 caseworkers to make a series of personal visits to those residences. They work with the families to help get them back on track.
“Thanks to the hands on work of county staff, the above and beyond the call of duty help from our local utilities, and increases in state assistance, we’re able to help make sure thousands of needy Dane County families don’t have to go without one of life’s basics,” Falk said.
Households needing financial assistance to pay their utility bills can contact Energy Services, Inc. at 267-8601. Families interested in talking to a JFF worker regarding their needs can contact David Marshall at 242-6388.