In Connecticut, more than 322,000 households cannot afford to pay their retail energy bills, according to a statewide 2016 Home Energy Affordability Gap assessment conducted and released by Operation Fuel, The Ridgefield Press reported on December 7.
In real terms, that means that there are about 9,000 more Connecticut households this year that cannot afford to pay their energy bills, compared with 313,000 last year. On average, these households each owe about $1,241 more in annual energy bills than they can afford to pay.
Many are working families with young children or elderly adults who are living on a fixed-income, the local news outlet states. During the past fiscal year, Operation Fuel provided over $3.18 million in energy assistance to more than 7,705 households.
Indeed, Operation Fuel has found, there is a $399 million energy affordability gap for Nutmeg State households. While the gap declined by nearly $71 million from $470 million in 2015, this drop is primarily attributed to a reduction in the price of home heating oil and natural gas over the past year. The Ridgefield Press reported.
“Even though energy prices were lower this past year, there still is a significant gap between what lower-income households pay for energy bills and what they actually can afford to pay. And when low-income households do pay their bills in full and on time, it is frequently at the expense of other basic necessities such as nutritious food, healthcare and education,” said Operation Fuel Executive Director Karen Adamson at a press conference at the state capitol in Hartford on December 6.
“… Connecticut has a large home energy affordability gap facing its low-income households, with available resources grossly insufficient to address the problem. As a result of this mismatch between energy bills and the resources needed to pay them, low-income households incur unpaid bills and experience the termination of service associated with those arrears,” stated the report, which was prepared for Operation Fuel by regional economist Roger D. Colton, a partner with Fisher, Sheehan & Colton Public Finance and General Economics, of Belmont, Massachusetts.
“The need for emergency energy assistance for Connecticut’s most vulnerable households is extensive. But our state’s available resources for addressing this problem are extremely insufficient. We must continue to work together to find solutions to Connecticut’s energy affordability crisis,” said Adamson
Operation Fuel is a private, nonprofit program that provides emergency energy assistance year-round through its statewide network of 107 fuel banks.