As more winter weather moves our way, home heating help is available.
It’s not something you can secure overnight, but local agencies helping with sign-up for the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program say it’s better to look into the assistance sooner than later.
“At the end of the season, if you haven’t been making payments, you’re going to get shut off,” said Patricia Monroe-Walker.
She’s worked for the Community Renewal Team (CRT) for 30 years, 25 of them for their energy services department.
CRT is one of the many agencies around the state helping people sign folks for the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program. The program is funded federally to help offset winter heating costs for struggling households.
“First time you mention snow, you know the lines blow up,” she said of the calls to their energy assistance hotline, which can be reached at 860-560-5800 and serves people in English and Spanish.
Monroe-Walker said the pandemic has added an additional layer of stress and need.
“We’re seeing a lot more new customers, new families, you know, people with additions to their households. People who have lost their jobs,” she explained.
Eligibility for the assistance program is based on the number of people in your home and your total gross income.
For example, if you live alone and make up to $37,000 you can qualify, as can families of four making up to $72,000.
You can also apply for assistance if heating costs are tallied in your rent.
“It is hard for them out there and you don’t want households to have to make a choice between you know are we going to eat or are you going to eat.”
The easiest way to check if you’re eligible is to call 211 or a nearby agency’s hotline, like CRT.
Employees ask for your patience as their phone line are busy.
“Don’t wait until you get that shut off notice and then you wait a couple of weeks and then all of a sudden it becomes an emergency and all of this could have been taken care of earlier.”
Calling 211 can also help with other needs too, like where you can find the nearest warming center.
The Cornerstone Foundation opened one in Manchester two weeks ago. You’re asked to call 211 before showing up.
The nonprofit’s executive director Sharon Redfern said their shelters are full and they’ve seen the need for food grow even greater in the last couple of months
“We’ve noticed a huge increase of people who are looking for assistance.”
But she said they’re happy to help connect you to the resources you need.
“Just reach out. Don’t be embarrassed. All of us have had to have help at some point in our life, so do it. Ask.”