Winter is coming: Connecticut slashes home heating assistance by 31%

It could be a cold winter for more than 116,000 low-income families. With energy costs remaining high, state lawmakers reluctantly approved deep cuts to a key home heating assistance program Monday evening.
The plan cuts funding to the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program by 31% this winter – while demand is projected to grow by 10%.
‘DIFFICULT DECISIONS’
The cuts are due to pandemic-era federal funding drying up. Congress could step in with additional funding, like it did last year.
“We're really hoping that our federal partners will understand that it's really inhumane to have people live in the cold,” Connecticut Department of Social Services commissioner Andrea Barton Reeves told lawmakers. “The real world ramifications are rather stark, and that’s what we are most concerned about.”
Advocates told three legislative committees that the program can literally mean life or death.
“It helps families not to have to make the difficult decisions of one basic need over another,” said Rhonda Evans, interim director of the Connecticut Association for Community Action.
At most, the state’s poorest families could claim $1,350.
“That's less than 380 gallons of fuel to one household for the whole winter, with all three tiers,” said state Rep. Jay Case (R-Winchester). “A household takes about 1,600 to 2,000 to fuel.”
Last year’s maximum benefit was $2,320.
EXTRA STATE FUNDING?
Some want the state to make up the funding difference next legislative session, but that could be a challenge. Although Connecticut is enjoying record surpluses, Appropriations Committee co-chair, Sen. Cathy Osten (D-Sprague), warned such a move would bust the state’s strict spending cap.
Last year, Connecticut lawmakers allocated $30 million extra for CEAP in a special session. But it went unspent, thanks to a mild winter and last-minute federal funding.
Others said the extra money is already available within DSS’s existing budget. The agency left tens of millions unspent last year.
Many lawmakers were frustrated with a lack of specifics at the agency’s finances.
“Clearly this process is broken,” said state Sen. Lisa Seminara (R-Avon). “There are so many people, on both sides of the aisle, whose questions are not being able to be answered.”
WAYS TO CUT YOUR BILL
To cut your bills, CEAP will give you money to weatherize your home. But many lawmakers worry, that won't be enough to keep people warm this winter.
“Even in a mild winter, we are heading for a disaster,” said state Sen. Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor).
You can apply for CEAP assistance starting this Friday. DSS has streamlined the application process, moving it online and cutting red tape.
You can apply here or contact these community agencies:
Alliance for Community Empowerment: Greater Bridgeport (203) 384-6904 Norwalk (203) 838-8110
Access Community Action Agency: Windham County (860) 450-7400 Tolland County (860) 412-1600
CAANH: Greater New Haven (203) 285-8018
CAAWC: Greater Danbury (203) 748-5422 Greater Stamford (203) 357-0720
Community Renewal Team: Hartford & Middlesex Counties (860) 560-5800
Human Resources Agency: Greater New Britain/Bristol (860) 356-2000
New Opportunities Inc.: Greater Waterbury (203) 756-8151 Greater Meriden (203) 235-0278 Greater Torrington (860) 496-0622
TEAM Inc.: Lower Naugatuck Valley (203) 736-5420
Thames Valley Council for Community Action: Southeastern CT (860) 425-6681