October 5, 2011 — Connecticut legislators voted last week to provide LIHEAP benefits to all households that qualify, rejecting a plan by the administration of Governor Dannel Malloy that would have made up for a projected shortfall in federal LIHEAP funds by limiting benefits to households heated by deliverable fuels.
To do so, legislators assumed that the federal commitment to the program will be $15 million more than what the administration expected. If the federal funding is below what the plan counts on, legislators said state officials would find money for it in the state budget.
To handle the projected cut, the Malloy administration had proposed limiting LIHEAP assistance to households that buy oil, propane, kerosene and other deliverable fuels from dealers. That would have eliminated assistance for more than 80,000 households that heat with gas or electric heat. The administration’s rationale was that state law protects those households from having their utilities shut off for nonpayment between November 1 and May 1, while no such protection exists for deliverable customers.
But after a public hearing on September 27, legislators on the Appropriations, Energy and Technology, and Human Services committees unanimously endorsed an alternative plan that would provide assistance to everyone who qualifies. It assumes that the state will have $61.6 million to use for the program. The governor’s office accepted the plan.
Last year, 117,876 Connecticut households received LIHEAP benefits. The administration's plan would have helped about 36,826 households, while the legislative plan would provide benefits to 122,127 households.
Because the expected program funding may be significantly below last year's level, the amount of money each household receives will be significantly lower. The benefits vary according to several factors, including income and vulnerability of household members.
The minimum a household may receive in basic benefits is $175 and the maximum is $255. This compares to a minimum of $605 last year and a maximum of $880. Households may still qualify for a crisis assistance benefit ranging from $375 to $530 and, if funding allows, the state will continue to provide its Safety Net Program, which provides up to $800 to delivered fuel households that have exhausted their basic and crisis assistance benefits and are in a life-threatening situation.
Source: CT LIHEAP website, newspapers