Operation Fuel ends assistance program early, citing spikes in demand and energy costs
Operation Fuel is shutting down its winter and spring energy assistance program early. The nonprofit announced it will close the program on Friday, April 14, citing spikes in fuel costs and extreme demand.
“I’ve never seen it like this in the 13 years that I’ve been with the organization,” said Brenda Watson, Operation Fuel’s executive director. “I’ve never seen this many people seeking assistance.”
Earlier this year, Operation Fuel paused applications for energy assistance due to extreme demand. The window for applications briefly opened again in April, but the group signaled another closure was looming.
On Wednesday, Operation Fuel said it was closing its program until August.
“We were hopeful that we would be able to get through the backlog in March, but it’s just an onslaught,“ Watson said. She said that the organization still has about 10,000 applications that haven’t been processed and that not all applicants will receive aid.
“Perhaps we will have to prioritize folks that are living on fixed incomes or people who are living with disabilities,” Watson said. “Prioritize those folks first, seniors, and then go from there.”
Between December and April, the group said it provided nearly $8 million in energy assistance to 8,000 households. “The demand for energy assistance from the nonprofit has increased substantially from a year ago, when Operation Fuel served 6,502 households all year,” the organization said in a statement.
During February and March, Operation Fuel received over 6,000 calls, and about 100 applications a day, according to Watson.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, energy prices spiked across the world.
Operation Fuel plans to resume providing energy assistance when its summer and fall program opens on Aug. 1 for fiscal year 2023-24.
“Anyone who needs energy assistance through May 31, should contact their utility company or the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) by calling 211,” Watson said in a statement.
This story has been updated.