Home heating help on the way

by shuaib y on flickr

by shuaib y on flickr

Sept. 17 2008

WASHINGTON- The White House announced Wednesday it would direct nearly $7 million in energy assistance funds to Connecticut as part of an effort to help low-income families heat their homes this winter.

Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd, Independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney, 2nd district, welcomed the move, but warned that the assistance was not enough to help working families weather the current energy crisis.

The money is Connecticut’s share of more than $120 million of left-over emergency Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funds, which President Bush made available. The aid consists of both baseline funds, approved by Congress, and emergency funds, released at the president’s discretion.

Wednesday’s release brings the total amount of emergency funds to Connecticut this year to nearly $24 million. Connecticut had not received emergency home energy aid funds since 2006, when the president directed $3.3 million toward the state.

Bush’s announcement comes a week after New England’s congressional delegation wrote a letter urging the president to release the outstanding funds, which would have expired at the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30, according to the members.

“With the winter months approaching, this is very good news for the working families of eastern Connecticut who are struggling to afford their home heating bills,” Courtney said in a statement. But along with Sens. Dodd and Lieberman, as well as Gov. M. Jodi Rell, he called for at least $2.5 billion more in federal funds.

“It is long past time to fully fund [the program]. and I intend to keep fighting,” Dodd said.

Low-income residents can apply for energy grants at one of 12 community action organizations in the state, according to Matthew Barrett, public and government relations director for Connecticut’s Department of Social Services. Barrett said his organization is expecting a spike in applications this year.

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