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Northwoods lawmakers urge care during the crisis for some using propane
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State Sen. Tom Tiffany, joined by Assemblymen Mary Czaja, Jeff Mursau and Rob Swearingen, are urging northwoods residents to look out for one another—and maybe dig a bit into their pocketbooks—to combat the area’s unprecedented propane crisis.

Langlade County Director of Emergency Services Brad Henricks is urging action on the local level as well.

With prices hovering in the $3.50 to $5 per gallon range, Tiffany was joined by his fellow lawmakers in Rhinelander Monday, asking Wisconsin residents to make a donation to those in need during this propane shortage.

"We thought we would lead by making a contribution and challenging the people in Wisconsin, if you want to help -- here's how you can do it," Tiffany, who was joined at the press conference at the Oneida County Courthouse by Swearingen and Mursau, said. Czaja was unable to attend, but also pledged her support.

“I have personally heard from constituents about the impact that this shortage is having on their family, friends, and neighbors,” Czaja said in a press release. “We want to give back to ensure that people can stay both safe and warm and will not have to choose between heating their home and feeding their family.”

The lawmakers got the ball rolling by each contributing $100 to the Keep Wisconsin Warm fund, established in 1996 after Wisconsin experienced one of its coldest winters on record.

They urged their constituents to do the same.

“That challenge goes out to not just our constituents but people across the state,” Tiffany said. “We just felt it was really fitting because our district is so rural and there are so many more propane users than many other parts of the state. We think it’s appropriate to highlight the Keep Wisconsin Warm fund as a place that people can help.”

Locally, Henricks said his office, along with the Department of Social Services, which administers the energy assistance program, has been working with dealers and those in need to ensure no one goes without heat.

“Langlade County appears to be holding its own,” Henricks said. “We’re not out of fuel, but it’s expensive. That’s where the problem comes in.”

On Friday, Antigo’s three main propane dealers quoted prices ranging from $3.56 to $4.698 a gallon, with various restrictions on how much propane a customer could buy.

Those restrictions allow the dealers to serve more customers, Henricks said, but also protect the buyer from filling their tanks with high-priced fuel, with lower prices almost certainly on the way.

“It’s just a very volatile market right now,” Henricks said.

The Keep Wisconsin Warm fund is a non-profit organization established in 1996 that aims to assist low-income households with their energy needs. Since that time approximately $20 million in donations have helped nearly 77,000 households.

"About 95 percent of the funds go directly to people who are in need," Tiffany said.

Typically a household must be below 60 percent of the state’s median income level to qualify for funds. Because of high prices caused by the current propane shortage, that income level has been increased to 80 percent. That’s where officials have been directing people who don’t qualify for other forms of energy assistance.

Since its creation, the fund has helped more than 76,000 households, raising $20 million.

Contributions can be made to the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund by donating online to www.kwwf.org/donate or by calling 1-800-891-9276.

Henricks added that there’s more local residents can do as well. He urged residents to check on their neighbors, especially the elderly, and make sure they have adequate fuel and heat.

“We want to make sure no one slips through the cracks,” he said. “We’ll figure out something for everyone in need.”

Tiffany said the propane shortage reveals the need to look at other policy issues over the long-term but there are people who need help now to make it through the coldest winter on record in nearly 20 years.

“The propane suppliers are really doing everything they can,” Tiffany said. “It’s an unprecedented situation. There are some policy issues that we’re going to need to deal with over time, but what we really want to highlight today is how can we help? Those people who like to give to charities, or want to help their friends or neighbors, here’s an avenue you can do it.”

Tiffany serves as senator of the 12th Senate District, while Swearingen, Mursau and Czaja are the representatives that the sprawling area in the State Assembly.


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From left, Rep. Jeff Mursau, Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Rob Swearingen are each making $100 donations to the Keep Wisconsin Warm fund. Kyle Rogers of the Northwoods River News provided this photo from Monday’s press conference held in Rhinelander.
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