New locations, new approach put applications 26% ahead of last year
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) launched the 2015-16 Energy Assistance Season on October 1 with new partners and a new service delivery model. Two weeks into the full season, more than 13,000 applications have been processed, a 26 percent increase over the same time last year.
New energy assistance contracts approved September 24, 2015 by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors enabled the County to partner with Community Advocates and UMOS to offer residents a number of convenient ways to apply for the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program, also known as WHEAP. WHEAP is a state program administered in Milwaukee County by DHHS that provides a one-time payment for eligible residents, covering a portion of their energy costs.
“When contracting with providers this year, customer service was the top priority,” said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. “I’m grateful that my partners on the County Board supported our new approach to making energy assistance more accessible to Milwaukee County residents who most need it. These numbers show the program is doing exactly what we hoped it would do – we’ve increased awareness and provided more accessible options for our residents to apply for these benefits.”
The new process lets eligible residents schedule appointments to apply for WHEAP by calling 414-270-4-MKE, or going online to www.energyassistancemke.org; there are also flexible walk-in options with minimal wait time. DHHS has more than doubled the number of permanent sites that process applications, bringing this service closer to more residents. People can apply anytime between October 1, 2015 and May 15, 2016 and receive the same benefit.
“We are pleased with these early numbers,” said DHHS Director Héctor Colón. “We are helping more households in Milwaukee County apply for energy assistance than at this time last year. We are also happy to report that our new application options have shortened wait times at our provider locations. Some applicants have waited as few as 10 minutes to apply for energy assistance.”
The Energy Assistance Program has also expanded phone service capacity to accommodate the increase in applicants scheduling appointments over the phone. Milwaukee County will continue to build awareness of the Energy Assistance Program throughout the season with new outreach in the winter months to encourage even more eligible residents to apply for Energy Assistance.
For more information on Energy Assistance or to schedule an appointment, visit www.energyassistancemke.org.