CT residents call for more federal heating assistance ahead of winter
As colder weather sets in, some Connecticut residents are looking for ways to help ease the burden of home heating costs, and lawmakers are looking to help.
Dozens of residents from Ansonia, Shelton and surrounding municipalities, met Monday at Ansonia city hall to share their stories and urged lawmakers to seek more federal aid to use toward home heating assistance.
Team Inc., a nonprofit human services agency, provides home heating help. It saw a 29% increase in heating requests last year and served more than 17,000 residents in the lower Naugatuck River Valley region, according to President and Chief Executive Officer David Morgan.
Some clients of the agency spend the winter months deciding between buying groceries and paying the oil bill, case manager Jason Blakeman said.
“Do we heat or do we eat? It ultimately boils down to that. It’s what I hear from residents and our clients over and over again,” Blakeman said. “We have people talking about these issues, opening their stoves when they’re cooking and leaving their stove open at a time just to heat, and it should not have to be that way. That choice shouldn’t have to be there.”
Last year, Connecticut received $86 million in LIHEAP funds, including a supplemental appropriation, due to emergent seasonal needs. This year, the state was allocated $72 million, Democratic Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro said.
“It is no slogan to say people are living paycheck to paycheck,” DeLauro said. “We know that lowering heating costs can work to save lives.”
Ansonia resident Stephanie Ocasio-Gonzalez is the executive office director for Team Inc., and is also an energy assistance recipient.
“It's really great to work for Team and to be able to be there to help the people. But then at the same time, there’s kind of that pull at your heart when people are calling and the benefit’s not enough and they need more help,” Ocasio-Gonzalez said.