A week ago, Kristina Smith, a 27-year-old circuit board inspector, had her heat disconnected.
“It’s very scary,” said Smith as she walked into the Social Development Commission office on Chase Avenue, where she hoped to apply for the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program.
Smith was billed $1,700 because of an old invoice and money owed by a tenant who lived at her address previously. “I’m screwed if I don’t get it turned back on,” she said.
To head off problems, We Energies spokesman Brian Manthey urges financially struggling customers to get in touch with the energy company as soon as possible.
“Just call us,” Manthey advised. “They should communicate with us before they are in a position to be disconnected if they feel they are going to struggle for whatever reason.”
For such customers, the energy company can set up payment and budget plans that can ease the impact of higher bills in the winter.
Manthey said that We Energies does not disconnect customers between Nov. 1 and April 15. “The problem is when April 15 rolls around, if you have not done anything to address what might be a mounting bill, you are going to be at risk for disconnection,” he said.
Those who struggle to pay their energy bills can also look to the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program. For those who qualify, the state program offers some payment of heating and electric bills, emergency crisis assistance and financial assistance for furnace repairs and replacement.
According to a program flyer, the assistance is not intended to cover the entire heating cost of a residence.
Program eligibility depends on income and the family size. For example, the maximum monthly gross income for a family of four is $3,957, while the maximum for a family of eight is $5,461.
Applicants need to bring a photo ID, proof of all household gross income for the three months prior to the month of the application, Social Security cards for every member of the household and a current energy bill. If heat is included with rent, the applicant must provide a lease or landlord’s statement showing the cost of heat each month.
Program applications must be filled out in person at one of the Social Development Commission offices—6848 N. Teutonia Ave., 4041 N. Richards St. or 2701 S. Chase Ave. An application can also be filled out at Community Advocates, 728 N. James Lovell St.
The SDC offices on Teutonia Avenue and Richards Street open at 7:30 a.m. on weekdays and, along with the Chase Avenue location, offer evening appointments. The three offices are also open from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.
Those in need can also cut their energy costs through the state’s Weatherization Assistance Program. Eligibility is determined when an application is submitted for the energy assistance program.
The program offers services including insulation of walls and attics, insulation or replacement of water heaters, and installation of energy-efficient lighting. For more information, contact the SDC office at 2460 W. Clybourn St.