MILWAUKEE -- We've seen bitterly cold, sub-zero temperatures and wind chills this winter, and the cost of heating and furnace repairs can be crippling for some -- but there is help available.
Victoria Oliver is one of those who has taken advantage of the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program, or WHEAP.
"Very happy -- because I needed it. It actually helps me out so I won't have to put so much on my We Energies bills," Oliver said.
Maudwella Kirkendoll with Community Advocates said energy assistance is a benefit for people who have difficulty keeping up with their energy bills.
"It`s a one-time payment for people who have a utility bill in their name. The payment can range on average from $400 to $500 per year," Kirkendoll said.
The program bridges payments and also facilitates a response in times of crisis.
"We are also seeing an increased number of calls for no heat situations -- where we are able to assist in getting furnaces repaired or replaced," Kirkendoll said.
If you're eligible, and your furnace stopped working and you have no money to fix it, you can call Community Advocates.
"We will make a referral for the furnace repair or replacement. If it's after hours, we will work to make sure the family or household is safe by either assisting them with getting to a safe location or proving supplemental heat in the interim," Kirkendoll said.
This winter, it appears the need is great.
"We`ve seen 35,000 households -- which comes to a 15 to 16% increase in the number of people served in comparison to last year," Kirkendoll said.
Community Advocates officials are urging homeowners to take advantage of this program.
Typically, it takes about 24 to 48 hours for the furnace to be repaired -- so you shouldn't waste time if you're in need.
CLICK HERE for everything you need to know about energy assistance and Community Advocates.