Struggling residents caught a break this week after the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program distributed over $21 million to consumer-owned utility companies to help clear overdue utility bills.
Brendan Conway, a spokesman for We Energies, said 18,000 of his company’s customers will receive assistance. This represents about half of the total recipients. Conway said We Energies customers accounted for about $12 million of the new payments.
Those eligible were notified before the funds were released and did not have to take any additional steps.
Barb Klug, the Home Energy Plus bureau director for the Wisconsin Department of Administration, said the average amount paid was about $590, and that the money has already been added to customer accounts.
Klug said the money was used to completely pay off the arrearages of recipients. The average cost was about $590, she said. The money has already been added to the accounts of recipients.
The initiative is funded by Wisconsin’s federal allocation for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. The state expects to receive from $110 million to $115 million in supplemental LIHEAP funding as part of the American Rescue Plan, Klug said on the Electric Wire podcast.
Tom Content, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin, urged those behind on their payments to contact their utility to set up a payment plan. While the new program is a “big help,” he said delinquent payments have gone up by about $100 million statewide during the pandemic.
Klug said the Department of Administration is planning to pay off more utility bills with increased federal funding. The department will be contacting cities and municipalities to determine the amounts to be distributed within the next 30 days.
What to do if you are behind on payments
- If you apply for energy assistance before May 15, you may be eligible to receive the next round of benefits. You can call (800) 506-5596 or visit the online portal at wi.gov to apply for energy assistance through the program.
- If your provider is We Energies, you can call (800) 842-4565. You can also call (800) 242-9137 for financial assistance information.
- If you have questions about arrearage payments or want to sign up for state energy assistance, call (800) 506-5596 or visit wi.gov.
- There also other resources available, such as Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services energy assistance through UMOS and Community Advocates. You can schedule an appointment, apply online or call (414) 270-4653.
- The Public Service Commission has a program that will help negotiate a payment plan for consumers that cannot reach an agreement with their provider. You can call (800) 225-7729 or (608) 266-2001 to contact it. You must attempt to contact your utility before using this service.