© 2024 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Connecticut lawmakers approve a 31% reduction in home heating assistance

Daniel DiDonato, a deliveryman for Heatable, brings heating oil to a home.
Robert F. Bukaty
Daniel DiDonato, a deliveryman for Heatable, brings heating oil to a home.

A Connecticut joint legislative committee approved a 31% reduction in the state’s budget for federal low-income home heating assistance on Monday.

This comes as state officials anticipate an increase in households in need of such assistance this winter.

The cut is necessary because supplemental federal funding that kept LIHEAP — Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program — buoyant during the pandemic is drying up, said state Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex). He is a member of the Appropriations, Human Services, Energy and Technology joint committee.

“There’s no free lunch here. We get extra money and then we want to continue spending at that level. This is not the process to do it,” Needleman said.

“We received one-time money, we managed to stretch that over three years," he added, "generally speaking fuel prices have stabilized. I don’t think this is the right time to try to be playing around with this.”

The committee approved a budget of $84 million for LIHEAP. That’s down from $122 million last year, which was boosted by supplemental federal funds and pandemic relief funds.

Republicans on the committee urged a fix. They claim the reduced funding is literally leaving people out in the cold.

“This year's benefit is only 28% of what it was just two years ago!” said Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly (R-Stratford).

“Connecticut can afford to help all those in need and stay warm. Our finances are flush. We have a $630 million surplus and a $3.3 billion rainy day fund.” he said.

Any fixes would have to be done when lawmakers resume for their regular legislative session next February, Democrats 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.