Husband, wife and son

husband, wife and son




Read all about how Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund is helping people all around the state of Wisconsin.

The marquee at Majestic Madison encourages people to get the COVID-19 vaccine so live concerts can resume.  Photo by Ruthie Hauge.

Outreach campaign aims to help Wisconsin’s hard-hit entertainment workers pay their bills

Natalie Yahr | The Capital Times Apr 23, 2021 |

Crescendo On Wisconsin, a public awareness campaign launched earlier this month, has a simple message for everyone in Wisconsin’s entertainment industry, from musicians to stagehands: You may qualify for help paying energy bills and rent.

The campaign’s website ( directs users to apply for energy assistance through Energy Services, Inc. and for rent assistance through the state’s Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

The campaign doesn’t change the income-based eligibility requirements for receiving assistance. Instead, it’s about getting the message to a set of people who may never have needed the help before the pandemic took their jobs.

Energy Services, Inc. launched the statewide Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund in 1996 after the federal government rolled back safety nets, leaving many Wisconsinites unable to keep up with rising energy costs. With funding from government, utility companies and donations, the fund provides an average of $400 per household in the form of one-time grants, available yearly, along with additional monthly support to subsidize users’ costs.

In a typical year, the fund would serve around 4,000 households, but the pandemic has increased the need. Last year, it served 5,300, expanding its main customer service center in Madison to accommodate the surge in calls. And the need has only grown as the pandemic has worn on, said Tim Bruer, executive director of Energy Services, Inc. On a single day this week, the agency received about 2,000 calls, up from around 350 at this time last year. Meanwhile, many others who would qualify aren’t applying, said Bruer.

“We’re dealing with a population that, for the most part, has never sought out any kind of assistance or help,” Bruer said. “Because of their pride, they don’t want to come forward.”

The idea to specifically target outreach to entertainment workers came from Energy Services, Inc. contractor Erik Kjelland, a Madison musician who co-founded Flannel Fest, a pair of annual Americana concerts that raise money for the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund.

When the pandemic hit, Kjelland, who plays with folk rock band The Mascot Theory and makes up half of Americana duo Kerosene Kites, watched as his own calendar cleared. He started talking with the staff at Energy Services, Inc. about the financial blows entertainment workers were enduring.

“We just knew that there were a lot of people out there … (who had) a really tough time last year,” Kjelland said. “We wanted to really reach out to them directly and just let them know that the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund is available for that and they should reach out and put aside their Wisconsin pride.”

With the go-ahead from Energy Services, Inc., Kjelland teamed up with Madison-based online music promotion company Broadjam to spread the word. The company, which helps musicians license their work to movies and television, has between 8,000 and 9,000 Wisconsin artists on its email lists, estimates CEO Roy Elkins. He was eager to help.

“Every day, somebody calls me that for the last year has been struggling because the musicians are out of work,” Elkins said. Some used to pay their bills by working in bars or restaurants. “All those jobs went away. It’s been demoralizing for the last year for them, just not being able to play gigs.”

Since the campaign’s launch, Elkins has been sending emails to everyone he can think of in his Rolodex, from those he knows through his years with the Madison Area Music Association to his various contacts at arts organizations throughout the state, asking them to tell their members.

“I’ve had a few responses: ‘Yeah, it went out this morning’ or ‘It’s going out Friday,’” Elkins said. “It makes me smile.”

When the Crescendo initiative launched, more than 13,000 entertainment industry workers had already received assistance from the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund. But Bruer said that there are at least 20,000 more workers from the industry who could use help but haven’t requested it, and he calls that a conservative estimate.

“For most, they’re there on an economic Titanic, with no hope in sight,” Bruer said, citing the many venues and production companies that have closed, some for good. 

“I don’t think that people generally really understand or appreciate the sacrifice (of) many of these folks who provide so much joy and entertainment to us,” Bruer said. “I think we’ve just taken it for granted that those bands and those groups and those theater folks are going to continue to be there for us and continue to provide that kind of enjoyable entertainment.

“This is the time that we have an opportunity to give back to that sector.”

On May 15th, Kjelland and his Kerosene Kites partner Beth Kille will raise money for the campaign with a three-band show at Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells. He also anticipates organizing an in-person Flannel Fest for this November, though no details have yet been set.

The Mascot Theory performs at Flannel Fest 2019, an annual benefit concert co-organized by Erik Kjelland, the band’s frontman. Photo by Brooke Billick.

Roy Elkins, founder and CEO of Broadjam, has been leading outreach for the Crescendo On Wisconsin campaign.  Photo by Michelle Stocker.

Beth Kille performs with her band at Flannel Fest 2019, an annual benefit concert she co-founded with fellow musician Erik Kjelland.  Photo by Mike Rausch.


Xcel Energy donates to Wisconsin energy assistance fund

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WKBT) — Xcel Energy announced Monday that it has donated $50,000 to the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cold fund, a nonprofit that provides energy-related assistance across the state.

“The need for assistance with the COVID-19 pandemic has increased significantly this year with calls to our organization up more than 40% compared to this time last year,” said Tim Bruer, founder and chief spokesperson, Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cold Fund. “We are very grateful for Xcel Energy’s generous donation that will allow us to help those most vulnerable with unmet needs.”

The Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund was established in 1996 and assists thousands of people every year who face situations that create financial challenges. About 95 percent of those helped are elderly, families with young children, people with disabilities and especially veterans.

“During the pandemic, we know that many residents are finding it more difficult to pay their utility bills,” said Mark Stoering, president, Xcel Energy-Wisconsin. “We are dedicated to our customers and the communities we serve, and this donation to is another way we can provide a helping hand to those customers most in need.”

The funds from the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund are distributed to local county and community action energy assistance agencies.

Xcel Energy customers who need help with their energy bills can call 1-800-895-4999 to find out about payment arrangements and available state and federal financial energy assistance programs. For more information about KWWCF, visit:


Nonprofit sees increase in calls for assistance keeping homes cool during pandemic

MADISON, Wis. – As the heatwave continues, an area nonprofit is encouraging anyone who needs assistance keeping their house cool to contact them.

Energy Services Inc., which runs the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund, helps residents facing energy emergencies. Executive Director Tim Bruer said calls to the organization are up more than 40 percent compared to this time last year.

“Our organization is looking at somewhere between 1,000 plus calls a day from people who never applied or reached out for assistance — people who have little or no ability to purchase a room air conditioner,” Bruer said, adding that with bills piling up during the pandemic, “a basic survival necessity becomes an unaffordable luxury.”

The pandemic also makes things difficult for those who may usually take refuge in public spaces like shopping malls, who may no longer feel safe doing so, according to Bruer.

While Wisconsin currently has a moratorium on disconnecting residents’ services because of COVID-19, which goes away on July 25 due to a Public Service Commission decision last month.

“As we speak, utilities are preparing to focus in and will likely be disconnecting households,” Bruer said.

Energy Services Inc. is working with utility companies such as Alliant Energy Center and Madison Gas and Electric.

“With the passion of that utility and their customer service staff, we’re working together to ensure that nobody faces a life-threatening situation because of their inability to keep their power on,” Bruer said.

In a statement, a MGE spokesperson Steve Schultz said the company is “committed to working with customers who experience hardship” and encouraged those behind on their bills to contact the customer service center.

“MGE is determining next steps in light of the PSCW decision and will communicate them to our customers and the public when information becomes available,” Schultz said.

He also noted he’s aware of scammers posing as MGE threatening customers with disconnection unless a payment is made immediately.

“Phone scammers may give instructions to pay with a prepaid debit card or a wire transfer. If MGE customers receive a call like this, this is not MGE,” Schultz said. “This is not how MGE does business and we are not disconnecting customers at this time.”

Bruer is encouraging everyone to turn on fans and air-conditioning, check in on family, friends and neighbors and, if need be, get connected with resources at Energy Services Inc.

“We want to encourage you to contact us as soon as possible,” Bruer said. “For the most part, we will do whatever we need to do to qualify them for much-needed help.”

Wisconsin residents who would like to be connected with resources can call 1-800-506-5596 or visit this website. Those interested in donating can find more information here.



There are many Waushara County residents that are struggling on fixed or limited incomes that find it difficult to keep pace with the high energy bills of the winter.  Many homes also have furnaces that are faulty and have no means to repair or replace them.  Energy Services for Waushara County is prepared to assist with these needs.

You do not have to be reluctant to ask for help, and just know that Energy Services is located at 220 N. Oakridge Court in Wautoma and they are committed to removing any artificial barriers to help you qualify for a Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance grant.  Grant amounts and payments are determined by your energy costs, household size, income, dwelling type, etc.  The approved payment is submitted directly to your utility or fuel company within a month of application.

To apply you will need 3 months of income statements, verification of your heating costs,  identification docu-mentation such as your Social Security Card and photo ID.  An example of the income guidelines is a household size of two with three-month income of $9,374 or if you are self employed an annual income of $37,496.  The process to apply is easy and to schedule an appointment call 1-800-506-5596 or 920-787-1830.  The team working at Energy Services is prepared help you in every way – you just have to make the initial contact.

Timothy Bruer, Founder and Executive Director of Wisconsin Energy Services, told the Argus Waushara County is one of the most challenging, with pride being such a barrier and the remote isolated households attempting to survive on their meager incomes.  The County has some of the greatest unmet needs in Wisconsin.  “To date Energy Services for Waushara County has served 1500 households in the county, a 15 percent increase over last year at this time, shortly we will have already served more households during February than we did all of last year,” Bruer said.

He also was quick to add there are still residents in Waushara County in need of assistance and wants those residents to reach out for help. “We are a Hand Up – Not a Hand Out” program and ready to assist households with the basic needs of heating their home.  For those with high medical risks and/or energy costs, there are also additional resources available with the households payments to make those monthly utility costs much more affordable.

“With pride or lack of awareness of resources available we are also asking family, friends, and neighbors to come forth and let us know of a struggling household in  need that you may be aware of,” Bruer added.  We will work together to help gain all of the necessary information to make the process as painless as possible.  We also realize with pride being a factor or if you homebound, no worries, we will make house calls by appointment, he added.

Bruer says his organization takes great pride in the fact that  Waushara County has a 95 percent eligibility rate.  The vast majority of recipients are the working poor with children under 6, elderly, disabled, and Veterans.  He also said the fastest growing unmet need is with Veterans in Waushara County.

In addition to assisting with energy bills, Energy Services for Waushara County will help to determine if residents qualify for free home weatherization and furnace services provided by CAP Services.  Upon completion of your Wisconsin Low Income Energy Assistance application, if eligible your household will be automatically considered for the services of the low-income weatherization pro-gram.

If you or someone you know needs energy assistance, don’t hesitate please call Energy Services for Waushara County today at 1-800-506-5596 or  920-787-1830 and remember it is a Hand Up – not a Hand Out.



Energy Services, Inc, the energy assistance program contact, is located at 514 Main Street in Friendship. Executive Director and founder of this nonprofit, Timothy Bruer, is passionate about the services it provides to Adams County. As a young community organizer in Dane County, Timothy Bruer was motivated to found Energy Services after recalling individuals who froze to death without heating, or suffered heatstroke without air conditioning. It is the fact that many people have to choose between paying for utilizes and food, or paying for medical care that makes Bruer passionate about helping people in our community.

Energy Services places a priority on young working families with children, the disabled, and the elderly especially veterans. Veteran organizations can encourage elderly veterans to come forward to receive assistance. Through Energy Services, Inc and the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund, the Heat for Heroes Campaign was launched. The Heat for Heroes Campaign with Wisconsin Home Energy Plus/Low Income Energy Assistance Program helps Veterans to alleviate life-threatening energy related emergencies through the use of energy assistance grants.

Bruer urges people to contact Energy Services before they are in a crisis situation. He said, “We want to help out folks who are struggling on inadequate incomes. Incomes have not kept pace with heating costs. Last year 1,435 households in Adams County were helped out by Energy Services. We bridge the gap between need and energy resources. Adams is unique because it has some of the most isolated and rural households and there are challenges to transportation. Some people are choosing between eating and heating. Energy Services is here as a hand up instead of a hand out. We want to help empower people to take control over their basic needs.” Bruer is putting out a call to action for family members, friends, neighbors, workplaces, and other community members to identify those who are in need and tell them about Energy Services.

Through Energy Services, qualifying applicants may receive energy assistance along with home weatherization assistance. Resolution to utility issues are usually resolved in 30 days or less. The Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) provides a one-time payment during the heating season. A household may be eligible for crisis assistance if they have no heat, have received a disconnect notice from the heating vendor, or are nearly out of fuel and do not have the money to purchase more. WHEAP emergency heating system assistance can provide services to eligible home owners if the furnace or boiler stops operating during the heating season.

The Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund, a charitable arm of Energy Services bridges the gap not met through grants from about 17,000 annual donors. Utilities and energy providers cooperate with Energy Assistance so no one has to be burdened with heating and cooling costs.

An application can be completed in about fifteen minutes. Applicants can call the local service center to schedule an appointment and need to provide required information such as three months of income verification and their utility records from their landlords. Energy Services can do home visits for those who are ambulatory homebound. Reach out to Energy Services for Adams County at 608-339-6767 and see how they can help you with your energy needs