UPDATE: Thousands of utility customers face threat of disconnection

Updated: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 --- 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday is the first day utility companies can disconnect customers if they're behind on payments.

The state's moratorium on shutting off heat ended Tuesday, April 15.

Because of the record low temperatures and a propane shortage this past winter, the number of people struggling to pay their utility bills is up 30 percent compared to previous years.

"In Dane County alone, we're working with about 4,000 households," said Tim Bruer, the executive director of Energy Services Inc. "When we look at these households, many of them are spending 30-60 percent of their monthly income toward energy costs," he said.

The non-profit administers home heating help to those facing energy emergencies thanks to state and federal aid, and private donations.

"Over 17,000 Wisconsinites have contributed to the Keep Wis. Warm/Cool Fund. This is a survival safety net of last resort for those who are the most vulnerable," Bruer said.

His employees work with utility companies and customers to negotiate affordable payment agreements so the power stays on. But despite their best efforts and the community's generosity, the need continues year-round.

"Our organization is particularly concerned about those folks who not only are facing the bitter cold, but also the blistering heat," Bruer said.

The Keep Wisconsin Warm fund has received $2.8 million in private contributions this heating season, and an additional $2 million from Governor Scott Walker.
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UPDATED Tuesday, April 15, 2014 --- 10:17 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state's moratorium on disconnecting utility customers who are behind on their bills is ending.

The law prohibits utilities from shutting off a customer's heat between Nov. 1 and April 15.

We Energies spokeswoman Cathy Schultz says the harsh winter hasn't resulted in more people facing disconnection, but amount of overdue bills is larger this year by 10 to 15 percent on average.

Schultz tells WUWM about 6,000 We Energies customers are at risk of being disconnected unless they make arrangements to pay their bill.

Help is available for people whose household is at, or below 60 percent of the state median income level. That's about $47,000 for a family of four.

People can apply for assistance through county social service offices, tribal governments and private nonprofit agencies.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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Posted: Saturday, April 5, 2014 --- 2:27 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin utility companies can legally shut off heat to people who are behind on their payments starting April 16.

State law prohibits disconnecting customers during the coldest part of the year between Nov. 1 and April 15.

The state Public Service Commission is encouraging those who need assistance to contact their utility about getting on a payment plan or seeing if they qualify for financial assistance from the state.

Help is available for people whose household include is at or below 60 percent of the state median income level. That is $47,485 for a family of four.

People can apply for assistance through county social service offices, tribal governments and private nonprofit agencies.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press


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