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Too Many Wisconsinites Can’t Afford Both Heating and Eating

It's been a mild start to November in Wisconsin, but winter's chill soon will arrive, bringing with it problems for tens of thousands of Wisconsinites who won't be able to afford their heating bill. Credit: Clean Wisconsin
It's been a mild start to November in Wisconsin, but winter's chill soon will arrive, bringing with it problems for tens of thousands of Wisconsinites who won't be able to afford their heating bill. Credit: Clean Wisconsin
November 11, 2015

MADISON, Wis. - Much of Wisconsin has yet to feel the bite of November's cold wind, but before long winter's brutal chill will descend on the Badger State, leaving thousands of people with huge energy bills to heat their homes.

According to the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund, a nonprofit agency that helps people pay their heating bills, nearly 70,000 Wisconsinites will get a financial boost from the agency to help them make ends meet.

Tim Bruer, executive director of Energy Services Inc. of Madison, said winter heating bills can be budget killers.

"I think what we've seen, in the last year or two, particularly," he said, "is that people are starting to wake up and are realizing heat, which is a basic necessity, has become an unaffordable luxury for those most vulnerable in our community, who at no fault of their own are really choosing between eating or heating."

According to Bruer, the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund is one of the most efficient charities in the state, able to target 95 cents of each dollar donated directly to households that need the money most. The agency also assists in helping people arrange more affordable payment plans with their utility, offers budget counseling and teaches ways to conserve energy.

He calls assistance to pay energy bills in the winter a growing, unmet need. Bruer said big winter heating bills have become a huge issue, not just for the state's senior citizens.

"We're starting to see people become well aware of the fact that this is really the biggest threat for the elderly, to keep them out of nursing homes," he said, "or people with disabilities, or veterans who have so many other issues that they are struggling with, coming back."

Pride still is a huge issue, said Bruer, with a lot of people particularly in small, rural communities who are just too proud to ask anyone for help.

"This is sort of an orphan cause, in that it's the thousand-pound gorilla for folks who really - again, at no fault of their own - are having to neglect their basic survival needs just to stay safe in their homes," he said.

Bruer said donations to the fund are always welcome, and it's easy to donate online at the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund website, kwwf.org/donate.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI