Social Issues

Cooling assistance is scarce in Milwaukee and across Wisconsin — here are options

There are multiple state and local programs that work to help with reducing energy costs during hot summers.

Wisconsin Watch

August 24, 2022

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A sign mounted on a masonry wall next to a door with glass windows reads Welcome to Washington Park Senior Center.

Milwaukee's Washington Park Senior Center is shown on April 16, 2019. It is among many locations that Milwaukee County designates as cooling centers for people who lack at-home cooling during hot summer days. (Credit: Analise Pruni / Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service)

Wisconsin Watch

By Samantha McCabe, Wisconsin Watch

The Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program will not offer utility assistance until Oct. 1, but residents can still apply beforehand to gain faster access to aid during the winter.

Here are some other resources that might help.

The Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance Program provides qualifying applicants up to 18 months worth of rental assistance, which includes help for paying utility bills. Community Advocates (414-270-4646) administers the program in Milwaukee County and the Social Development Commission (414-906-2700) also administers the program in the city of Milwaukee.

If you do not live in Milwaukee County, other agencies can help. The Wisconsin Community Action Program Association coordinates the program through its member agencies. The funds may be available to those who meet income guidelines and have experienced economic hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eras Senior Network may have a limited number of air conditioners and $100 subsidies remaining for low-income seniors living in the Harambee neighborhood. Your ZIP code must be 53212. Contact Freda Wright at [email protected].

Some households with children may qualify for a Job Access Loan, which is available through the Wisconsin Works agencies in Milwaukee County and statewide. The loans have narrow eligibility criteria and may be used to pay for utility expenses.

If you are struggling to pay your utility bill, IMPACT 211 recommends staying in touch with your utility. For Milwaukee residents, that’s We Energies (800-842-4565). The utility may be willing to negotiate a repayment plan or find another solution. Staying silent is more likely to result in a disconnection.

Wisconsin Help for Homeowners, a statewide program, can help with overdue bills like mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities and more. The program is “open to individuals and families who live in Wisconsin with overdue housing-related bills, both with and without a mortgage, who meet income and other eligibility requirements, and have experienced a qualified economic hardship since January 21, 2020,” according to the state Department of Administration. Call 1-855-2-HOME-WI (1-855-246-6394) to learn more.

Have questions or want to share any energy assistance resources that we may have missed? Email [email protected] or text MKE to 73224, enter your ZIP code and request to connect with a reporter.

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