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Promised funding for heating assistance will be a 'game changer'

Operation Fuel is expanding eligibility for heating assistance to residents this year because Connecticut expects to receive $10 million from Eversource and $3 million from UI as part of the deal with the Lamont administration.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
Nonprofit Operation Fuel said it has yet to see any of the $10 million from Eversource and $3 million from United Illuminating that was promised to the state as part of a deal with the Lamont administration.

A nonprofit that helps cash-strapped residents pay their home heating bills said it is still waiting on millions of dollars in extra funding from utilities Eversource and Avangrid, parent company of United Illuminating (UI).

Gov. Ned Lamont announced a deal with Eversource and UI last month that was slated to infuse an extra $13 million into home-heating assistance programs, but Brenda Watson, executive director of Operation Fuel, said her organization has yet to see the money.

“I still don’t have an answer as to when the money will actually flow through,” Watson said. “I believe something is going to come our way. I just don’t know what sort of contingencies will be connected to the money.”

Operation Fuel works to help Connecticut households that make too much money to qualify for state and federal programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. This winter, it’s expanding eligibility for heating assistance because it expects to receive $10 million from Eversource and $3 million from UI as part of the deal with the Lamont administration.

Watson said her organization is still working out the details of final totals and when the assistance will need to be disbursed with state officials.

Both Eversource and UI said they need to hear back from state agencies before they can release the money. In a statement, the Lamont administration said it is working with the utilities to get the money released “as quickly as possible, with a focus on this winter heating season.” Officials at the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority said they are also working to release the funds “expeditiously, but cannot speculate about a specific date.”

Heating assistance applications are now open

Watson said her organization is now taking applications for winter home heating assistance.

To apply, you need your last four weeks of income statements and the name of your fuel vendor. Watson said documents should also include your utility bills and payment history.

In a typical year, assistance eligibility is capped at 75% of the state median income. But in anticipation of the extra money from Eversource and UI, Watson said “we're going to cap it at 100% of the state median income, which is around $127,000 for a family of four.”

“This additional funding is going to be a game changer for many households,” Watson said.

Watson said they are expecting a large number of applications considering that electricity rates will jump in January and demand for Operation Fuel’s help surged several months ago.

In a typical year, Watson said Operation Fuel helps about 1,900 households during its summer and fall program. But this year, the organization helped 3,600.

The application window for the winter/spring assistance program normally lasts until the end of May. But, Watson said, “given the environment that we’re in, we’re probably going to stay open through the end of June.”

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.

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