Sen. Kelly: CT Fuel Assistance Program Shutdown Points to Need to Fix Heating Assistance

October 5, 2023

Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly issued the following statement regarding Operation Fuel’s Summer/Fall Energy Assistance program season closing on Friday due to a high volume of demand:

“For more than a year, Republicans and energy assistance advocates have been sounding the alarm about declining heating assistance funding combined with skyrocketing demand.

We warned that Connecticut’s poorest families on emergency heating assistance could get nearly $1,000 less in government aid this winter and that the State of Connecticut is literally leaving people out in the cold. To put it in perspective: this year’s benefit is only 28% of what it was two years ago!

Alarm bells were raised by Operation Fuel earlier this year when it announced it was pausing its program to catch up on a backlog of unprocessed assistance applications. Because of this tremendous demand, Operation Fuel also reduced energy assistance grants from $1,000 to $500 per household.

The administration and the majority touted a major state income tax cut this year, but I have publicly urged them to consider this fact: Many vulnerable households effectively could lose all of their tax relief – and more – unless state officials act to fix heating assistance.

The solution? Connecticut can afford to help all those in need, stay warm. While state government’s coffers are full, there’s a substantial part of our state that’s struggling economically. Refusing to help on the grounds that it’s ‘Washington’s responsibility’ is a callous, cold-hearted policy.

Plummeting heating assistance is negatively impacting struggling Connecticut families and it is taking a toll on their mental health. Derby-based human services group TEAM Inc. in January said it received more than 4,600 applications for the energy assistance program, a 35 percent increase from the same period last year.

Does anyone think this unsustainable trend is miraculously going to reverse itself this winter? New England residents have already been warned to “get our snow shovels ready” for the upcoming winter weather.

We must act to help these asset limited, income challenged (ALICE) families from going cold this winter.

Bottom line: The administration and the majority cannot take a wait and see approach when lives are in the balance. These are seniors on fixed income, the disabled, and children in need. Republicans will continue to be the voice of families in need until they are heard.”