Energy Services Inc., a Madison nonprofit organization that runs the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund, saw a 40 percent jump last week in households needing assistance paying for heat, Executive Director Tim Bruer said.
Bruer said pride keeps some in poverty from seeking assistance until their situation gets to a crisis level. He said this is particularly prevalent in disabled veterans.
“They don’t come forth, they’re the proudest of the proud,” Bruer said. “We can receive anywhere from 30 to 80 calls a day from veterans who are not aware of this survival safety net, or if they are aware, they’re reluctant to apply.”
Bruer said disabled veterans are an especially vulnerable group because, like seniors, they are often on a fixed income.
“It’s almost a year before those households receive a relatively small disability benefit,” Bruer said.
Bruer said people need to keep an eye on their neighbors and check on them to ensure they’re staying warm because their pride may keep them from reaching out. He also said his organization has discovered a record number of households with furnaces in a dangerous state of disrepair.
“Carbon monoxide is one of the biggest killers out there,” Bruer said. “With the sub-zero conditions, it places an incredible stress on those 80-year-old heating units.”
Bruer said those in need of heat assistance should call KWWF at 1-800-891-WARM (9276). KWWF also has a program specifically for veterans in need of heating assistance, called Heat for Heroes.
Alliant Energy also provides additional assistance to customers who receive assistance from KWWF and similar nonprofit organizations through its Hometown Care Energy Program. Funds are distributed to customers through those nonprofits.
According to MGE, customers who are having trouble paying their utility bills this winter should contact the company at 252-7222.