Energy funding assistance must continue, New Haven nonprofit leaders tell Murphy


NEW HAVEN — Addie Kimbrough, a community garden organizer in Newhallville, said an elderly neighbor received a call from United Illuminating about an aid program to cover utility costs, she was convinced it it was a scam.

However, that was not the case. Thanks to an overall increase in federal spending in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Home Energy Assistance Program for low-income people has received a cash injection. The program subsidizes energy heating and cooling costs as well as weatherization and energy-related home repairs for eligible low-income households.

“I live in Newhallville, and this comes at the right time,” Kimbrough said.

Kimbrough, along with leaders of various nonprofit agencies providing assistance to low-income Connecticut residents, met with U.S. Senator Chris Murphy Thursday afternoon at the Community Action Agency’s Whalley Avenue office to share their thoughts on the issues facing their constituents.

Dana Barcellos-Allen, director of marketing and development for Operation Fuel, said she and her colleagues worry about May, when a state program that delays utility shutdowns due to economic hardship takes hold. end.

“There were COVID protections, and people were protected. Now people can have high bills,” she said.

Federal assistance to ameliorate the problem for low-income families would be crucial for people surviving the cold, she said. Some families, she said, choose not to use heating at all because they cannot afford it.

“Their budgets just can’t handle another degree higher,” she said.

CAA employees described to Murphy the impact of resource testing programs on some of their customers. The decision to tie aid to eligibility for other federal programs such as SNAP has been beneficial, said Deb Polun, executive director of the Connecticut Association for Community Action.

Amos Smith, president and CEO of CAA, said nonprofits are in a precarious position. He said funding can be a challenge and greater community need requires more funding.

Barcellos-Allen said some households are finding the pandemic is straining their utilities; having children at home washing their hands and flushing the toilet at home rather than at school can make a difference for families, she said.

The extra funds have kept families afloat in Connecticut, Polun said.

“The extra funds that have come in have been incredibly helpful. We need funds. It’s cold and energy is expensive,” she said.

The state received $159.9 million in LIHEAP funding to provide energy cost assistance to low-income families.

Murphy promised he would make the case to his congressional colleagues that Connecticut residents need a continuation of the benefits they received while preparing the next appropriations bill.

“I think we’re going to have to explain the benefits of some of the changes we’ve made,” he said.

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