MILWAUKEE -- It is now officially fall, and the cooler air is a reminder that winter is fast approaching. Higher energy bills are on the horizon. Thousands of households in Milwaukee County qualify for energy assistance, and officials are trying to ensure those who qualify apply.
This year, there are changes to the energy assistance application process in Milwaukee County.
If you've received energy assistance in the past, you may soon get a telephone call about applying again.
"We have a list of applicants -- either elderly and people with disabilities who have applied in the past and we can call them and do their application over the phone," Andi Elliott with Community Advocates said.
Some energy assistance recipients were able to apply over the phone in years past.
But this year, officials are expanding access as part of an effort to boost the number of applications.
Energy assistance is meant to help the community's most vulnerable populations -- like the elderly, disabled and low-income households better afford their energy bills.
About 175,000 households in Milwaukee County are eligible for energy assistance, yet the number served tends to be about 62,000.
"You're eligible for this benefit and please take advantage of it and take advantage of the easy ways to apply," Elliott said.
It is always a good idea to be careful about what information you share over the phone.
If you receive a phone call about applying for energy assistance -- there are a few things to look for so that you can be sure it's legitimate.
"We would never ask for the full social security number. We would ask for the last four digits," Elliott said.
The caller will also provide you with the option to call him or her back.
"We would identify who the caller is speaking to who the energy assistance worker is and then that person would give them their direct phone number," Elliott said.
Only those who have received energy assistance in the past will be able to apply over the phone.
The Energy Assistance Program provides qualified Milwaukee County residents with a one-time annual payment to make energy (heating and electric) bills more affordable. You can apply for energy assistance at any point between October 1st and mid-May.
To find more information about where you should go and whether or not you qualify, CLICK HERE -- or call 414-270-4653.