December 12, 2014—Operation Fuel released a report this week documenting the home energy affordability gap in Connecticut. It found that more than 305,000 low-income households can't afford their energy bills, and that there is a lack of resources to address the situation. The affordability gap for these households, which have incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, is over $780 million.
For the report, an energy bill is considered unaffordable if it exceeds six percent of a household's income, and the affordability gap in Connecticut continues to widen. The number of low-income households whose bills outstrip their ability to pay has increased more than 30 percent since 2011, while the $780 million figure is three time as high as it was in 2006. The report states these low-income households have annual energy bills that outstrip their ability to pay by $2,650 per household.
According to the report, LIHEAP is the primary source of energy assistance in the state. However, while the affordability gap has grown to over $780 million, Connecticut will receive about $5.5 million less in LIHEAP this year.
"LIHEAP covers only a fraction of the Home Energy Affordability Gap for a fraction of income-eligible households," said Roger Colton, an economist and author of the report.
Operation Fuel is Connecticut's only statewide nonprofit energy assistance program. The fuel fund serves households that are in financial crisis, but not eligible for energy assistance from government-funded programs like LIHEAP. Last year, it gave out a little more than $3 million to nearly 7,000 households. The organization's maximum energy grant is $500 per household over a 12-month period.
As mentioned earlier, Roger Colton (a principal with Fisher, Sheehan and Colter Public Finance and General Economics) authored the report for Operation Fuel. Since 2003, he has compiled an annual Home Energy Affordability Gap report for the entire country. His most recent national report, based on 2013 data, found a national affordability gap of almost $39.1 billion. That is an increase of about 214 percent from the initial report in 2003.
Sources: Operation Fuel, media reports, Roger Colton