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home : news : vilas county July 22, 2014

2/3/2014 2:39:00 PM
Area lawmakers urging donations to energy assistance program
Donations would be used to help with propane shortage
Rep. Jeff Mursau, Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Rob Swearingen are each making $100 donations to the Keep Wisconsin Warm fund. They are encouraging others to do the same to help with the current propane shortage.Kyle Rogers/River News photograph 

Rep. Jeff Mursau, Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Rob Swearingen are each making $100 donations to the Keep Wisconsin Warm fund. They are encouraging others to do the same to help with the current propane shortage.

Kyle Rogers/River News photograph 

By Kyle Rogers
of The Northwoods River News

Three Northwoods lawmakers came together Monday to announce a challenge to their constituents – make a donation to the Keep Wisconsin Warm fund to help those who have been most affected by the propane shortage.

In a press conference at the Oneida County Courthouse, state Assembly representatives Jeff Mursau (R-Crivitz) and Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) and state Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) all said they will be making a $100 donation to the fund and they encourage others to do the same.

“That challenge goes out to not just our constituents but people across the state,” Tiffany said. “We just felt it was really fitting [in the Northwoods] because our district is so rural and there are so many more propane users than many other parts of the state. We think it’s appropriate to highlight the Keep Wisconsin Warm fund as a place that people can help.”

State Rep. Mary Czaja (R-Irma) will also be making a $100 donation but was unable to be at Monday’s press conference.

The Keep Wisconsin Warm fund is a non-profit organization established in 1996 that aims to assist low-income households with their energy needs. Since that time approximately $20 million in donations have helped nearly 77,000 households. Typically a household must be below 60 percent of the state’s median income level to qualify for funds. Because of high prices caused by the current propane shortage, that income level has been increased to 80 percent. That’s where officials have been directing people who don’t qualify for other forms of energy assistance.

Mary Rideout, interim director of the Oneida County Department of Social Services, said last week her office received nearly 500 calls about energy assistance. She noted this is a time when such calls are typically beginning to gradually subside.

“This isn’t about us,” Mursau said. “This is about trying to challenge people out there, who may be able to help and have a few extra dollars, to help people [with low incomes] out.”

“This is a serious issue. Our phones have been ringing off the hook,” Swearingen said. “Clearly we’re not hiding from it and we’re here to help. I encourage anyone to reach out to our offices or the Keep Wisconsin Warm fund to help.”

Tiffany said the propane shortage reveals the need to look at other policy issues over the long-term but there are people who need help now to make it through the coldest winter on record in nearly 20 years.

“The propane suppliers are really doing everything they can,” Tiffany said. “It’s an unprecedented situation. There are some policy issues that we’re going to need to deal with over time, but what we really want to highlight today is how can we help? Those people who like to give to charities, or want to help their friends or neighbors, here’s an avenue [the Keep Wisconsin Warm fund] you can do it.”

To donate to the fund, call 800-891-9276 or visit kwwf.org/donate. Donations can be earmarked so they’re targeted toward a specific area of the state such as Oneida County.

Kyle Rogers may be reached at kyle@rivernewsonline.com.

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