MILWAUKEE (February 7, 2019) – The Milwaukee County DHHS Energy Assistance Program saw a record number of calls for help repairing or replacing furnaces during the extreme cold weather triggered by the polar vortex.
During the span of January 25 through January 31, 2019, the 24 hour a day 365 days a year 2-1-1 call center operated by IMPACT, Inc. took in 207 calls for help with furnace issues, 184 of which resulted in on-site service calls.
In comparison, the period from January 2 through January 8 only saw sixteen such calls.
"We've never seen anything like this," said IMPACT, Inc. CEO John Hyatt. "In the seventeen years that our 2-1-1 crisis line has been referring callers to Milwaukee County Energy Assistance, we've never had such a concentration of calls for help with furnace repairs and replacements."
"This program is a life saver," said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. "This data shows that there were at least 184 families that we were able to help in a time of life-threatening cold."
More than forty percent of callers were age sixty or older, according to data provided by Impact, Inc. That represents a population at particular risk of harm due to the wind-assisted temperatures as low as -50 degrees.
"A high concentration of the calls came from ZIP codes in Milwaukee County with the highest poverty rates," Milwaukee County DHHS Director Mary Jo Meyers said. "Our mission of empowering safe, healthy, meaningful lives starts with making sure people are safe in their home during dangerous events like these. I'm proud of everyone at our Energy Assistance Program, and everyone at our partner agencies, who protected the safety of these Milwaukee County residents without delay."
Community Advocates and United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS) handled more than 85 percent of the referrals, while the City of Milwaukee's Department of Neighborhood Services and La Casa de Esperanza helped the rest.