“This is a necessity:” Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Program gears up for another winter

MILWAUKEE -- On average, 600 people a day sign up for home energy assistance programs in Milwaukee County, and that number keeps going up every year. FOX6 News spoke with one customer who says these programs do more than just keep the lights on, it saves lives.

A short line and people moving quickly is exactly what Kimberly Nelson likes to see -- people getting help.

"I'm a single person struggling every day, going to a job that I love, but unfortunately sometimes my ends don't meet the means," said Kimberly Nelson, enrolled in energy assistance program.

Kimberly Nelson

For years, she's been enrolled in the Home Energy Assistance Program through Milwaukee County -- an initiative that helps people pay bills by granting them federal money meant to specifically help pay for utility costs.

County Executive Chris Abele says this is a growing program.

"The waits weren't hours, they were minutes. There are more locations, and more importantly, we're serving more people," said Milwaukee Co. Executive Chris Abele.

But it wasn't always like this. In recent years, some of the contractors who helped provide these services were unable to do the job effectively. Lines were out the door, it took hours to talk about getting help. Today, it takes minutes.

Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Program

"This isn't sort of a luxury for people, this is a necessity," said Abele.

Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Program

Before getting called in to enroll, Nelson offers thanks to those who allow the program to continue.

"I'm so grateful that we have this in place because it helps a lot of people. It keeps a lot of people current, it helps to improve how they pay their bills," said Nelson.

The Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Program, administered by the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services, helps more than 58,000 Milwaukee County households each year stay safe, warm and make their energy bills more affordable.