Wisconsin counties see major spikes in heating assistance requests

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Counties throughout western Wisconsin are seeing major spikes in calls for heating assistance.

Eau Claire and Chippewa Counties are seeing up to five times more calls asking about heating assistance. Western Dairyland in Eau Claire is encouraging eligible people to take advantage of available funds.

“We've probably had about 300 calls just in the last week, so it's a lot to keep up on and I think we feel bad that we can't get back to people as timely as we'd like to,” Western Dairyland energy assistance coordinator Kristy Sellhausen said.
“We maybe would get that many calls in a month's time versus in a week's time.”

Chippewa County said it had 156 calls last week for heating assistance, nearly five times what it would normally see.

Eau Claire, Dunn, Pepin and Trempealeau Counties saw increases too. It's a one-time payment for heating costs to anyone making 60 percent or less of the Wisconsin’s median income.

Sellhausen said the spike in propane prices is largely to blame.

“Some elderly people on a fixed income, they were able to kind of budget for their propane before, some even pre-purchased some of it, but nobody plans that the winter was going to be this cold for this long and that the prices were going to jump this high. So they weren't prepared for that with their budgets,” she said.

She said Gov. Scott Walker's order to provide an additional $7 million to heating assistance made a big difference.

“I think due to this whole crisis going on with propane, we probably would have been out of funding very shortly had we not gotten that additional funding.”

“I had a lady the other day that she said it would have taken her entire social security check just to pay for that one delivery of 200 gallons of fuel which was maybe going to last her for a month. So for us to be able to help her out so she could keep her moneys for her other bills and groceries and things was a nice feeling to be able to do that.”

Sellhausen says the average amount given in Eau Claire County last year was $312. For more information on how and where to go for help call 1-866-HEATWIS.

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