State Urges Lower-Income Residents to Apply for Utility Assistance


This winter’s frigid cold stretch, coupled with higher natural gas prices and the ongoing pandemic, is creating a financial hardship for many lower-income Wisconsin households, but funds are available to help.

National data show only 16 percent of eligible households apply for utility assistance funds. Barbara Klug, bureau director for the Division of Energy, Housing, and Community Resources in the Wisconsin Department of Administration, says it’s important to make sure people know assistance is available, especially during the pandemic.

“I think that sometimes there is the pride factor where people just want to try and make it on their own,” Klug said. “But the energy assistance program is very similar to the homestead credit, and we definitely are encouraging people to apply.”

Last year, Wisconsin received $150 million from the American Rescue Plan Act and used $123.1 million to pay off all delinquent bills for lower-income customers of investor-owned and municipal utilities as well as members of electric cooperatives. The state also worked to make sure people who heat with fuel oil had a full tank going into the winter. This effort cleared delinquent bills for 131,000 Wisconsin households.

This year the ongoing pandemic and subsequent inflation continue to cause hardships for some lower-income families, amplified by frigid temps and higher costs driving up utility bills. Krug says, unlike most states, Wisconsin sets its budget for the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) by considering factors such as the price of natural gas to ensure appropriate funds are available for all who need assistance.

“I’m going to knock on wood and say we have never run out of money, and I don’t think we will run out of money this year,” Klug, who has dedicated her 30+ year career to working on utility assistance programs for low-income Wisconsinites, told Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News. “We have also budgeted for increased crisis activity for April 15, if the moratorium does end.”

The income guideline for utility assistance is 60 percent of state median income, so a family of four making less than $60,000 each year may qualify for aid. The average total benefit for the 2021–2022 season is $400 for heating, plus $186 for the electric bill. The state is awaiting the remainder of its award of federal funds in the amount of $10-$15 million from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) program, and once those funds are received, it could issue additional supplemental payment to those who have already received assistance.

Wisconsin also has crisis assistance program funds remaining for people who are facing disconnection or have run out of fuel oil or propane.

To apply for utility assistance, which is a simple application, residents can call 800-506-5596 or go to The deadline to apply for heating assistance for this season is May 15, 2022. Those facing disconnection can apply for crisis funds through September 1, 2022.—Julie Lund