Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services responded to record number of furnace calls during polar vortex
More than 200 people called for help keeping their home warm and safe
PRESS RELEASE: February 7, 2019
Justin A. Metzger, MA
Communications Manager
Milwaukee County DHHS
O: (414) 289-5885 | M: (414) 514-4053
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.
About the Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Program
The Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Program, administered by the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services’ Management Services Division, helps more than 58,000 Milwaukee County households each year stay safe, warm and make their energy bills more affordable. In partnership with UMOS and Community Advocates, and funding largely provided by the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Energy Assistance Program’s help amounts to almost $40 million in benefits, including utility bill assistance, emergency furnace repair and replacement, and assistance with payment plans and disconnections. See more at  

About the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services
The Milwaukee County Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) empowers safe, healthy, meaningful lives by ensuring that no one in need goes unserved. Whether it be experiencing homelessness, a mental health crisis, system-involved youth or caring for a child with disabilities, DHHS connects individuals and families to resources that can help. Using best practices from the social service sector, DHHS collaborates within its divisions and with community partners to provide personalized services that are integrated, trauma-informed, and evidence-based and drive positive outcomes. Committed to performance excellence, DHHS is dedicated to ensuring everyone has access to the resources they need to overcome challenges and create opportunities to become self-sufficient, strengthen their families and create a healthy, stable and safe community. DHHS is comprised of five divisions: Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division, Division of Youth & Family Services, Disabilities Services Division, Housing Division and Management Services Division. For more information visit