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Connecticut Democrats approve $79 million for low-income heating assistance. GOP says it's not enough

Drivers for an oil delivery company fill their trucks at the Sprague terminal, on Jan. 16, 2014, in South Portland, Maine. Diesel and heating oil supplies in the Northeast are more than 50% below the recent average, raising concerns that an extreme weather event could cause supply disruptions, federal officials said.
Robert F. Bukaty
Drivers for an oil delivery company fill their trucks at the Sprague terminal.

A special Connecticut legislative committee has approved Democratic Governor Ned Lamont’s request to allocate $79 million in federal funds to help low-income residents cover heating and electricity costs this winter. A Republican amendment to add more money failed.

The GOP legislative minority had complained that Lamont’s request would not cover the high cost of energy this winter. But their effort to amend the governor’s request and add $112 million from the state‘s unspent federal COVID relief money through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) failed.

“The question is do you want additional (state) taxpayer money to go inside along with the federal money?” said Lamont, indicating that GOP lawmakers are asking that state money be spent on a federal program.

“That’s why we have some of the ARPA money in reserve. And I'll need the legislature back in session and we can decide if that’s our priority in January,” Lamont said.

Democratic lawmakers have argued that the decision can only be made during a regular legislative session.

In the meantime, members of the state’s federal delegation are pushing their colleagues in Congress to appropriate more federal money for LIHEAP — the low-income home energy assistance program. The need is urgent and will become more so as temperatures drop, they said.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.