UPDATE: State commits resources to help with propane shortage - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: State commits more resources to help with propane shortage

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) committed more money Monday to help both low-income residents who use propane and the small businesses that supply it to them.

That commitment came after a meeting with stakeholders from both the public and private sector.

"Collectively, working together, we're gonna get through this," said Gov. Walker.

The Governor authorized an additional $7 million be made available for assistance to low-income residents who use propane to heat their homes, bringing the total to $8.5 million.

"To make sure that as prices have gone up and as demand has gone up, to make sure that no one is in a position where they can't heat their home, because of their financial situations," said Gov. Walker.

The state is also setting aside $8 million to help small-scale propane supply businesses to secure loans in order to pay wholesale suppliers, many of whom are charging higher than normal upfront costs right now.

"They can't just write a check or pay the cash up front for that, this helps us make sure that those small businesses delivering the propane can have a line of credit that they can take to the supplier," said Gov. Walker.

$5 million of that is coming from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), with the remaining $3 million coming from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA).  That money will be used to back up lines of credit issued to small businesses by banks and other Wisconsin financial institutions.

As the state tries to help consumers and businesses, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) is appealing to President Obama to moderate propane exports, which doubled last year due to high profits.

The export of that surplus propane, combine with the cold winter, played a large role in depleting supplies.

"Its not, in and of itself, gonna solve the problem, but it could contribute to a set of solutions to respond to Wisconsin's crisis," said Sen. Baldwin.

Gary France, Chair of the National Propane Gas Association, says suppliers recognize the problem the high level of exports has created.

"Most of us are small business people and we want to run without a whole lot of government regulation, but at the same time, we have to treat this as an energy that keeps people's houses warm and its not a commodity," said France, who met with Gov. Walker on Monday.

If you heat your home with propane and are worried about being able to pay your bill, you're encouraged to call 1-866-HEAT-WIS for assistance. 

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MADISON (WKOW) -- After a meeting with government and private sector stakeholders early Monday morning, Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) announced the state would release an additional $7 million in energy assistance benefits to help support low-income Wisconsin residents who use propane to heat their homes.

That is in addition to the $1.5 million the Governor authorized to be released for energy assistance this past weekend.

The Governor also authorized $8 million in loans for propane dealers who are having problems obtaining the product and delivering it to consumers.

An estimated 250,000 Wisconsin households, primarily in rural areas, use propane to heat their homes.

A nationwide shortage of propane has severely limited supplies and driven the price up five times higher than it was last winter. 

That shortage is being blamed on the extended period of below normal temperatures, as well as a number of other factors.  Producers say a wet fall caused farmers to use more propane to dry their crops.  High profits from exports also caused producers to sell off most of their surplus to other countries.

Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann is covering this story today and will have much more on 27 News at 5 and 6.

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