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Federal help coming to state for propane crisis

Published On: Jan 30 2014 06:12:04 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 30 2014 07:47:12 PM CST

The Obama administration is removing transportation restrictions that could slow the delivery of propane to Wisconsin. The move came in response to a request from Gov. Scott Walker.

“Valerie Jarrett, the senior adviser to President Obama, called me this morning about an hour before the president came in, went through our list and actually she and her team went through and signed off on all of the things from the Department of Transportation doing similar things to what we’ve done, which is lift weight limits,” Walker said.

Walker went on to say the federal government will also lift weight restrictions for rail carriers in an effort to expedite the delivery of propane to Wisconsin.

“The president came in, I greeted him, thanked him for his staff stepping up. This is one of those great issues where it doesn’t matter about party affiliation. You just figure out a way to deal with it. So we appreciate the president’s team responding so quickly to us,” Walker said.

White House officials also announced they are releasing $14 million in federal funds to help Wisconsin residents struggling to pay for propane. The amount represents Wisconsin’s share of remaining Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funds.

“Rural homeowners across Wisconsin are experiencing crisis conditions due to the propane supply shortage and resulting price hikes in the Midwest. In light of the propane emergency and the disproportionate impact of high prices on low-income Wisconsinites, yesterday I called on the Department of Health and Human Services to immediately release Wisconsin’s share of the remaining Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funds,” U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin said in a statement. “I applaud the Obama Administration for taking this action in response to the crisis faced by Wisconsin families and businesses.”

The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority has established a $3 million loan program in response to Walker declaring a state of emergency due to the shortage.

According to a release, WHEDA will provide loan guarantees to banks of 50 percent of a total loan for dealers to purchase propane.

"Gov. Walker has called upon state agencies to assist in the protection of our citizens during this fuel shortage," WHEDA Executive Director Wyman Winston said in the release. "WHEDA is pleased to implement a new loan guarantee program to provide financing to dealers to quickly purchase propane so homeowners can continue to heat their homes during this rough winter."

The Wisconsin Department of Administration is also asking county officials to identify businesses that are impacted by the propane shortage and encourage them to report uninsured losses they incur.

Criteria for reporting uninsured losses include not having heat, the inability to pay propane bills and the inability for a dealer to deliver propane at current prices, according to a release.

To report losses, Dane County businesses should contact Dane County Emergency Management during normal business hours at 608-267-2542.

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