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Sen. Chris Murphy Wants to Help Struggling Connecticut Households Pay for Heat

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A home oil-burning furnace.
The Community Action president said there are more families who need heating assistance this year compared to last year.

Oil and natural gas prices have gone down, but the need for energy assistance in Connecticut has gone up, according to a recent report released by Operation Fuel. The report revealed that 313,000 Connecticut households can't afford their energy bills. 

Connecticut U.S. Senator Chris Murphy is looking for support from Washington to increase funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). He said Connecticut will receive funding, but it's not enough.

Murphy came to New Haven to talk with local residents and employees of the Community Action Agency of New Haven, which serves clients in need of social services. He said he wants his colleagues from the warmer states to understand what it's like for residents who need and can't afford heat. 

"I’ve got to deliver to them the real life stories of frail seniors, of disabled residents, of working moms with little kids who are going to have to keep their thermostat on 58, 55 this winter, because they can’t afford heat," Murphy said.

Credit Lori Mack / WNPR
Sen. Chris Murphy and Community Action President and CEO Amos Smith.

Jamie Sullivan, a 30-year-old single mother of three, has been a client of Community Action for about five years. She's received shut-off notices from utility companies in the past and knows what it's like not to have any heat.

"The gas company doesn’t care whether you work or not,"  Sullivan said. "They will shut you off." She receives about $535 for the heating period. If her gas bills go over that, she has to make up the difference. 

Community Action served about 12,000 clients last year. President and CEO Amos Smith said this year they’re running about ten to 12 percent above last year’s numbers.

"The problem isn't getting better," Smith said. "It’s actually getting worse, because incomes aren’t keeping up with the pace and costs of running a family these days."

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