With the cold weather approaching, many area families will be faced with heating bills that can be out of reach.
But residents living in Hartford and Middlesex counties who are income eligible can apply through the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) which is run by the Community Renewal Team (CRT). The program allows eligible residents to receive help with their heating bills this winter.
“We basically help households supplement their heating needs,” said Patricia Walker, director of energy services for CRT.
Walker stressed that it doesn’t make a difference how residents receive their heat — whether through deliverable fuel or a utility — they can apply for the program.
“We can also help that small population whose heat is included in their rent,” she said.
But getting the word out to people has proven to be a challenge.
“There are people out there, believe it or not, who don’t know this program is out there,” she said.
And some people simply believe they are not eligible, Walker said.
“We just need people, if they think they may be eligible, to come and apply. The funding is there. We just want to get people in and help,” she said.
The cost of heating a home during the winter can often lead people to make a difficult decision.
“Nobody should have heat during the winter season. We don’t want people to have to make the choice ‘Am I going to provide heat for my family or are we going to eat. It shouldn’t come to that,” Walker said.
Regional retail heating oil prices in Connecticut on Sept. 2 averaged $2.967 per gallon statewide, according to data from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. And in Hartford the average cost was $3.021 on the same date.
Walker recalled an instance where they were able to help a single mom with a pending utility shut-off. CRT energy staff assisted the family with the eligibility process and then applied for the operation fuel program which gave them enough monies to keep their utility service on as well as making the payments current.
How To Apply
In order to apply for the energy assistance program, households must provide the names and social security numbers of every person living in the household. They also need to provide four weeks of gross income for every household member, Walker said.
Other documents needed are a current electric bill and if they rent, a rental receipt as well as the landlord’s information — name, address and phone number. Homeowners must provide mortgage documentation, Walker said.
Applicants must also provide bank or credit union statements, she said.
“Whatever type of income is coming into the household, we need that,” Walker said.
The Energy Assistance Program is funded with federal monies resulting in the required documents.
A copy of a light bill from households who receive deliverable fuel allows staff to see if they are eligible for energy assistance.
“They can try and get their bill coded hardship, so that during the winter their services are not discontinued,” Walker said. “And if they heat with utility, we can also help them apply for help to lower their utility bill.
To apply for the Energy Assistance Program, a person must call the 24-hour automated attendant, 860-560-5800. And if a person is not sure if they are eligible, they can also call the number and ask to speak to a representative.
A list of required documentation can be found at: Energy Assistance Program | Help with Utility and Heating Bills | CRT
According to Walker, once the applicant has an appointment, they go in and sit with an intake worker who goes through all their documents. If all the required paperwork has been provided, they could know their eligibility and how much they are eligible for within a half hour, Walker said.
“Our problem comes when the application is incomplete and we have to wait for the customer to come back and sometimes they don’t. That’s the biggest hiccup,” she said.
For individuals who are homebound — such as the sick or elderly — they can request an application be mailed to them, she said.
Once an application is approved, in the case of deliverable fuel, the money is paid directly to the fuel vendor. If a utility company is the provider, then the money goes directly to the utility company under the household’s account.
“The exception is those households whose heating is included in their rent, then they get a one-time small payment which they receive directly,” Walker said.
Applications are currently being accepted. And households can apply through the end of April, Walker said.
“But we go an extra two weeks into May, but that is only for households that have a shutoff,” she said.