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Less financial assistance expected to help with heating costs

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Kenosha County residents needing help with heating costs might receive less in assistance this winter compared with previous years.

State officials estimated the federal government would send fewer dollars to Wisconsin for help with weatherization, heating costs and related bills for the 2013-14 season.

Kenosha County households that could use the financial help already have seen a decline in the average assistance the past four winters, according to figures from the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program.

Chilling numbers

The average benefit for an eligible Kenosha County home in fiscal year 2009 — ending June 30, 2009 — was $706. That fell to $555, a 22.4 percent drop, for fiscal year 2010.

The year ending June 30, 2013 had an average household benefit of $473, a 2.9 percent drop from the previous year.

The Wisconsin Department of Administration said statewide estimates are that 215,000 households would receive heating assistance this season, with an average heating benefit of $227.

Statewide, that’s a decrease of

-- $110, or 33 percent, from the $337 average last year.

-- 6,963 houses, or 3 percent, from the 221,963 households last year.

The reason for the expected drop is a cut in federal funding: $70 million versus $98.4 million.

Something for everyone

Stephanie Marquis, state DOA spokeswoman, said all eligible homes would receive some funding. If the federal government comes up with more money than the state estimated, more assistance would be paid out, she said.

Marquis noted the number of homes statewide and in Kenosha County applying for assistance dropped in 2013 from 2012, possibly suggesting more households are doing better financially.

The Kenosha County Energy Assistance Program is administered by United Migrant Opportunity Services, housed at the Boys and Girls Club of Kenosha, 1330 52nd St., 262-657-2170. Others can call 1-866-432-8947 or visit the Home Energy Plus Where to Apply web page for the appropriate local agency.

Cutting energy loss

Part of the state’s energy help is the Weatherization Assistance Program, which offers funds for energy conservation, insulation, energy efficient lighting, patching air leaks, repairing/replacing furnaces and insulating or replacing a water heater.

Eligibility for assistance is based on household income, household size and the home’s heating costs. The Home Energy Plus Program runs from Oct. 1 to May 15.

How to cut costs

A Wisconsin Weatherization Assistance Program press release suggested these ways to cut energy use and costs:

-- Reduce thermostat setting by five degrees or more when sleeping or away from home, but not below 55 degrees, which could contribute to pipes freezing.

-- Move furniture and drapes away from heating vents to allow for heat circulation.

-- Check the furnace filter monthly and replace as needed to maintain efficiency.

-- Let the sun in during the day to reduce heating costs.

What’s the cheapest heating fuel?

According to the Wisconsin State Energy Office, based on average seasonal cost for residences from October 2012 to March 2013:

-- Natural gas - $501.71

-- Wood - $919.78

-- LP/propane - $1,078.76

-- Heating oil - $1,867.02

-- Electricity - $2,244.10

Kenosha News