HARTFORD, Conn. – A cold snap that brought light snow and freezing temperatures to the state this week was a chilling reminder that nearly 300,000 Connecticut households have trouble keeping the heat on.
A study released by Operation Fuel Inc. highlighted the energy affordability gap in Connecticut — the difference between what many households can afford to pay and what they actually owe on their annual energy bills.
“Energy affordability remains a pressing problem in Connecticut that affects tens of thousands of families every single year,” said state Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), Senate chairman of the General Assembly’s Energy & Technology Committee, in a Thursday press release. “As we enter the colder months of the year, it is important for all of us to remember that not everyone can afford to keep the heat on. The simple fact is that while government programs help many families with their energy expenses, sufficient funds do not exist to provide assistance to everyone in need. In light of that, I hope those who are able will consider making a donation to Operation Fuel, either on their monthly utility bill or directly.”
Connecticut’s total home energy affordability gap was found to be $699,785,080, only 11 percent of which is covered through the state’s primary source of energy assistance for lower-income households, the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Operation Fuel is a private, nonprofit program that provides emergency energy assistance through its statewide network of more than 100 fuel banks to lower-income working families, the elderly and disabled individuals who are in financial crisis and not eligible for energy assistance from government-funded programs. Operation Fuel works in partnership with businesses, communities, government and individuals to ensure that Connecticut households have access year-round to critically needed energy assistance.
“Home energy costs continue to present a significant financial burden for lower-income households in Connecticut,” said Operation Fuel’s Executive Director Patricia Wrice in the release. “Many Connecticut families are being forced to choose between paying their energy expenses or paying for food and other basic necessities. This especially is troublesome for households with elderly residents, chronically ill members or young children whose health depends on a warm home in the winter or air conditioning in the summer.”
Operation Fuel and its statewide network of fuel banks will start taking applications for the winter program on Dec. 1. This past year, Operation Fuel gave out nearly $3.6 million in energy assistance to more than 8,200 Connecticut households; serving a total of 21,432 individuals including 2,052 elderly and 8,222 children under the age of 18.
That program in Norwalk is administered by Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON). NEON was recently relieved of its responsibility for handling the money, but is continuing to sign people up for the program.
Donations for Operation Fuel can be sent to Operation Fuel, One Regency Drive, Suite 200, Bloomfield, CT 06002 or made online at www.operationfuel.org.