EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- The partial government shutdown could mean people who rely on help to pay their heating bills through the winter might be left in the cold.
The Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance program started accepting applications last week but people who qualify might not see the benefits until leaders on Capitol Hill reach an agreement.
The Department of Human Services in Eau Claire County says more than 4,000 households received benefits last year but right now those that have applied are waiting to hear back if they will get their benefits before the temperatures drop.
“The government really needs to come in and help us out instead of shutting everything down,” Chrystal Williams said.
After filling out pages of paperwork Wednesday Williams learned that the heating assistance that she applied for might take a little longer to get to her.
“We don't have any funding for our state because of the government shutdown,” Williams said.
“Right now a person applying today for energy benefits will maybe be approved for the benefits but until we hear from congress that they have approved a budget they will not receive the benefits,” Eau Claire County Economic Resource Supervisor Jane Olson said.
Olson says the shutdown might be keeping some people from applying for the help but she says their doors are still open for those looking to fill out and submit applications.
“Every year our numbers seem to go up in the energy assistance program there is obviously more of a need for it,” Olson said.
As temperatures continue to drop, those who are pinching pennies to pay the bills say they hope Congress can agree sooner rather than later.
“We should be able to get state funding to help people out here that need it,” Williams said.
“We want to be able to serve all of those customers and help them through the winter months so they don't have to make that decision of heat or food or what not,” Olson said.
Olson says the typical payment for a household is between one-hundred and four hundred dollars for the winter heating season.