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Operation Fuel says requests for heating assistance are way up

SCITUATE, MA - March 8: Corey Carlson of Anderson Fuel after filling a house with home heating oil which has risen to over $5.00 a gallon on March 8, 2022 in Scituate, Massachusetts.
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SCITUATE, MA - March 8: Corey Carlson of Anderson Fuel after filling a house with home heating oil which has risen to over $5.00 a gallon on March 8, 2022 in Scituate, Massachusetts.

Home heating oil prices have risen dramatically in recent weeks. On Tuesday, the executive director of a Hartford-based nonprofit said she’s seeing a spike in customers asking for help paying their heating bills.

“We recently received a request for a fuel delivery in the amount of $1,000. And we’ve never seen a request that high before,” said Brenda Watson, executive director of Operation Fuel, which provides assistance statewide to people struggling with home utility bills.

“Typically, we would see a request in the amount of $300 to $500 – at the most, $700. But never as high as $1,000,” Watson said. “So that kind of threw us for a loop here. It was really one of those indicators to us that fuel prices are way beyond outer reach for people at this point.”

Home heating prices have jumped dramatically in Connecticut in recent weeks.

Most recent data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that the price of residential heating oil recently jumped by more than $1 per gallon in a single week.

Watson said Operation Fuel provides assistance to people struggling with all types of energy bills, including all deliverable fuels from oil to wood pellets. The non-profit pays heating vendors or utilities directly as a way to provide relief to qualifying customers.

From December through mid-March, she said her group has served more than 2,000 households.

“The requests for fuel have slowly increased more so in the past few days than all winter,” Watson said. “We’re on track to very likely [serve] up to 7,000 households this year.”

Watson said she wants people to contact Operation Fuel for help.

“We’ve never seen fuel prices this high,” Watson said. “It’s really quite intimidating to think about the amount of need that’s going unmet.

“That’s why we try to encourage people to apply despite what their income status may be,” Watson said. “If you’re someone who’s working and living paycheck-to-paycheck, you’re very likely eligible for our program.”

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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