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Calendar says ‘spring’ but heating assistance needs still high

Richard Kremer, Wisconsin Public Radio

Demand is still high for home heating assistance in Wisconsin, even though spring has officially arrived.

Since October 2013, more than 184,000 households have received around $56 million to help pay for heating bills through the state's Low Income Home Heating Assistance Program. Department of Administration representative Stephanie Marquis says that's around 10,000 more households than during the same period the year before.

“The [number of] people that have applied for heating assistance this winter is higher than average,” Marquis said, “and obviously with the incredibly cold winter that we had and the propane shortage here in the Midwest, we're not surprised by seeing that increase in number.”

Also this year, there were more than 17,000 households receiving crisis home heating assistance. Marquis says propane customers account for the majority of people seeking both types of aid. 

Even though the number of people receiving heating assistance is up, there's less money going out. Marquis says that's because federal funding is down in recent years.

“It's going to depend on the money that we're getting from the federal government and they've had some budget issues as well,” Marquis said. “So, what we're seeing is that our funding is down a little bit at this point, about $10 million.”

Marquis says there's a chance that Washington could allocate more for the program at the end of the year. Households at or below 60 percent of the federal poverty level can still apply for heating assistance until the end of April.

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