Helping to pay heating bills for those in need

(WTNH)–Winter finally seems to have made an appearance in Connecticut, and over 300,000 Connecticut families can’t afford to pay a heating bills, according to a study released by the nonprofit group, Operation Fuel.

“Who are working families, full-time, doing everything we expect them to do,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. “But they just simply don’t have money to make ends meet.”

Murphy held a round-table in Bridgeport to discuss the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Many of the workers who help with applications, were once dependent on the program themselves.

“I like helping clients,” said Cherokee Bardliving, who now works with Action Bridgeport Community Development. “I put myself in that example. I was once where they were.”

Workers at Action Bridgeport Community Development shared examples of working poor and elderly residents, too ashamed to seek assistance, who suffered winters with no heat.

“We have a lady over 80 years old, came to our department after no heat for over three years,” said Marcia Fountain. “Negotiated and helped her get it back on.”

Applications for assistance have gone up five percent in Bridgeport, and up 11 percent in New Haven. Dayleen Lee is a machine operator with no children She works 48 hours a week, but still has trouble with her energy bill.

“It’s very frustrating, working hard with no time for yourself or family and trying to make ends meet,” Lee said. “But not making it.”

Agencies urge residents to apply for assistance, regardless of income. The federal omnibus spending bill included $3 billion for heat assistance to cold weather states.

“This is always an uphill battle to put money in the LIHEAP account because it’s not a national program,” Sen. Murphy said. “It really is regional.”

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