Energy Assistance Information for Low-Income Households
Energy Assistance Information for Low-Income Households
- Are you concerned about paying your bills?
- Where to get help
- Energy assistance programs
- Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP)
- CEAP Crisis and Safety Net Benefits
- CEAP Furnace Repair/Replacement
- CEAP Food Stamp (SNAP) Related Benefits
- Other assistance with utility & fuel bills
- Protection from shutoffs
- Arrearage forgiveness programs
- Weatherization assistance to help you cut your energy bills
- Where to go for help
- For more information
If you are low income, you may need help paying for your utility bills (electric and gas) and energy or deliverable fuel bills (oil, propane gas, and wood). This article describes programs that can help you with these costs. You may be eligible for more than one program, so consider applying to all for which you may be eligible.
It may be possible to budget your utility bills throughout the year to avoid having your utility service shutoff, and energy assistance programs can reduce what you must pay each month. Winter is a good time to set up a budget payment agreement because you will
- avoid the risk of a spring utility shutoff and
- be able to get the benefits from utility arrearage forgiveness programs where in exchange for regular payments, the utility forgives part of your debt.
To find the energy assistance application site nearest your home, call Infoline at 2-1-1.
When you apply, you will need proof of income for everyone in the house. Ask what documents you will need to bring when you apply (for example, photo identification, paycheck stubs, Social Security checks, a copy of your oil, gas or electric bill if this is your heat source, etc.). Use the space on the next page to record the information.
Note: The Community Action Agency can help you complete your energy assistance application if you are homebound because of disability or illness and cannot go to an appointment.
For more information on programs described in this article, call the Connecticut Energy Assistance Hotline at 1-800-842-1132 ovisit www.ct.gov/staywarm.
Call 2-1-1 to find out where to apply.
Apply for energy assistance at the Community Action Agency energy assistance application site for your area. Some local community agencies can also take your application. Call Infoline at 2-1-1 to find out where you can apply. One application covers CEAP (Connecticut Energy Assistance Program) benefits and a request for weatherization assistance (both are described below). Applications are taken between the beginning of November (and sometimes earlier) and a date set each year, typically around the beginning of May, unless funding runs out before that deadline. To find out the deadline for applications, call 1-800-842-1132.
The Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) will help pay your winter heating bills if you are low income. Help is only available for your main source of heat (called "primary heat"). Benefits are limited and are not likely to cover your full winter bill.
- A fixed amount is paid directly to your utility company or your deliverable fuel dealer (oil, propane, kerosene, coal or wood).
- And, if you heat with a deliverable fuel,
- you are eligible for a "clean, tune, and test" and a start up of your furnace.
- you may also be eligible for more assistance ("crisis and safety net" benefits, see below).
- If heat is included in your rent, CEAP will pay a small amount of cash to help pay the rent as long as your rent is more than 30% of your income.
CEAP crisis and safety net benefits are available only to households that heat with deliverable fuels. Once you use up your basic CEAP benefits, a one-time crisis assistance payment for a fuel delivery may be available, depending on household income. More safety net benefits may be available after that.
Ask for this assistance from the Community Action Agency handling your CEAP benefits. (Again, households using utility services as the primary heat source cannot get crisis and safety net benefits.)
Where a heating system is unsafe or not working, repair or replacement is available to some very low-income CEAP eligible homeowners. Contact the Community Action Agency handling your energy assistance application if you need this assistance.
You may be able to get higher food stamp (now called "SNAP") benefits. Households receiving CEAP can have the Department of Social Services (DSS) calculate their SNAP benefits using the "standard utility allowance" (SUA). This results in higher SNAP benefits when the SUA is more than actual utility expenses.
NOTE: For anyone not eligible for CEAP because heat is included in the rent and rent is less than 30% of income:
If you apply for and get SNAP benefits, DSS will automatically calculate your SNAP benefits to allow you to receive a higher amount.
Operation Fuel and Fuel Banks
Operation Fuel provides emergency energy assistance for people who are not eligible for CEAP or who have used up their CEAP benefits. Payments are made directly to the company that supplies the household with energy or utility services. Local fuel banks may also have other funds available.
Apply at the fuel bank serving your area. To find your local fuel bank, call Infoline at 2-1-1.
Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines Fund
If you or your spouse were in the armed services and were honorably discharged, you may be eligible for assistance that can be used for energy and utility bills or to make furnace repairs. Every town has an application site. For information, call Infoline at 2-1-1.
If a lack of service is life-threatening to someone in the household, electric and gas companies may not shut off or refuse to turn on utility service at any time during the year, regardless of the amount of money the customer owes. A doctor must certify that the shutoff is life-threatening by filling out a form provided by the utility.
Protection from Winter Shutoffs:
The best long-term protection from a shutoff is a payment agreement you can afford to keep. Protection for low-income persons from winter shutoffs is available under certain circumstances, depending on whether the company provides electric or gas service:
Electric Utilities: Protection from a winter shutoff is available to low-income electric utility customers by applying each fall to their electric company for "hardship" status. "Hardship" customers cannot be shut off between November 1 and May 1, even if they owe the company money. If electric service is shut off, the utility must turn it back on by November 1, even if the customer is unable to make a payment.
Gas Utilities: Protection from a winter shutoff is available only to low-income gas heat customers by applying each fall to their gas company for "hardship" status. "Hardship" heating customers cannot be shut off between November 1 and May 1, even if they owe the company money. If gas heating service is shut off, whether the utility must turn it back on by November 1 depends on the customer's situation:
- If you did not ask to have gas service kept on the prior winter as a "hardship" case, then the gas company must turn the gas back on by November 1, even if you are unable to make a payment.
- If gas service was not shut off the prior winter because you were a "hardship" case, then the gas company does not have to turn your gas back on by November 1 unless you have paid the lowest of the following amounts since the prior November 1:
- 20% of the amount you owe when the gas was shut off (not the amount of the final billing after the shutoff);
- the minimum payments under your payment agreement with the utility company.
- Whenever possible, if you are low income, you should
- apply to your utility company for "hardship" protection from shutoffs;
- apply for energy assistance;
- apply for the utility company's arrearage forgiveness program (see below) and
- make an affordable payment agreement so that you can keep utility service all year. (See our article, How to Keep Year 'Round Utility Service if you are not eligible for the utility's arrearage forgiveness program.)
An arrearage forgiveness program means that some of your back debt (bills) will be forgiven when you make regular payments on your bill. Households are put on a budget plan. As long as you make the payments agreed to in the budget plan, your back bills will be erased or forgiven. Your utility bill can be reduced to $0 in the arrearage forgiveness program, but it cannot result in a credit on your account. There are two parts in the arrearage forgiveness program:
- the winter program (November 1 to April 30), and
- the summer program (May 1 to October 31).
Arrearage forgiveness programs are available to gas and electric heat customers who are low income and heat with:
- Electricity from Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) or United Illuminating (UI), or
- Gas from Yankee Gas, Southern Connecticut Gas (SCG) or Connecticut Natural Gas (CNG), and
- Receive energy assistance for that utility's bill.
- To apply for the arrearage forgiveness program, call your local Community Action Agency, local fuel bank, or the utility company.
For the winter part of the arrearage forgiveness program,
- You must sign up with the utility company between November 1 and April 30 and make a payment agreement.
- If you receive energy assistance for your utility bill and make all the payments required in your payment agreement by April 30, you can stay on the program until October 31. The utility company will
- match the amount you paid and match the energy assistance amount that they received, and
- apply that amount to your bill until you no longer owe the company money.
- The utility company will tell what your monthly payment will be under this program. If you can't afford this amount, you can ask them to lower it to one that you can afford.
- You may be eligible for a special program for reduced monthly payments. If you cannot afford the amount the utility asks you to pay each month, ask for a referral to a social service agency that can determine if you are eligible for a reduced monthly payment. The reduced payment can be as low as $50 a month if that is all you can afford.
- If you do not apply for this program on time or you do not make all of your payments, you must wait until the following November for another chance to participate.
- If you stop making payments, your service may be shut off between May 1 and November 1.
For the summer part of the arrearage forgiveness program,
- Customers who successfully complete the winter part of this program can participate in the summer months. If the utility company receives all summer payments by October 30, it will match the amount you paid and apply that amount to your bill.
CL&P and UI also have arrearage forgiveness payment programs available to customers who are not eligible for the programs described above. Contact the utility company to find out how to participate in these programs.
Note: See our article, How to Keep Year 'Round Utility Service/Resolving a Utility Shutoff. It has information about payment programs and how to get the most from energy assistance. It also has worksheets to help you determine what you must pay toward your utility bill when you do not qualify for an arrearage forgiveness program.
Renters and owners who are low income can get free help to reduce energy use through weatherization and conservation assistance. This assistance helps low-income households make their home or apartment more comfortable while reducing utility and energy bills. Examples of weatherization include insulation, furnace repairs or replacement, storm windows, caulking, refrigerator replacements, information on reducing energy use, cutting down on drafts from outside, and more. If you rent, the landlord may need to agree to some of the weatherization services. In some cases, the landlord may be asked to make a small contribution to the property improvement.
- When you apply for energy assistance, ask for weatherization help. Weatherization assistance is provided through Community Action Agencies and is free to lowincome households.
- Free weatherization help is available directly through CL&P and UI for their customers. CL&P customers: call the WRAP program (1-800-388-9727) or get an application on the CL&P web site. UI customers: call UI-HELPS program (1-877- 947-3873) and ask for weatherization help. Gas company programs are coordinated through WRAP and UI-HELPS.
- Free weatherization help is available directly from municipal utility companies for their customers:
- Bozrah: 860-889-7388
- Groton: 860-446-4000
- Jewett City: 860-376-2955
- Norwich: 860-887-2555
- S. Norwalk: 203-866-3366
- Norwalk 3rd Tax. District: 203-866-9271
- Wallingford: 203-294-2263
- The Department of Social Services (DSS) will pay for property repairs (including weatherization related repairs) for homeowners on state welfare for families (TFA), State Supplement (AABD) or State Administered General Assistance (SAGA). The repairs must be needed to allow you to remain in your home. Not all repairs are covered. Contact your DSS worker for detailed information.
- Home Solutions Program provides: Five-year loans for conservation improvements; loans and grants for emergency repairs to owner occupied 1- and 2-family properties owned by persons 62+ years; loans for septic system repairs to owner occupied 1- and 2-family properties; and loans and grants for lead and asbestos abatement for owner occupied and rental property with one to six units. Call CRT at 1-800-798-3805 or visit www.crtct.org/Programs/HomeSolns.htm.
- Furnace replacement rebate program available through the CT Office of Policy & Management: 1-866-940-4676.
- Connecticut Housing Investment Fund (CHIF) has low interest loans with extended repayment periods for weatherizing homes. Low-income homeowners can apply. Call CHIF at 860-233-5165.
- During the winter, free weatherization kits are available to customers who take a tour of the SmartLiving Center, 297 Boston Post Road in Orange, CT. 1-866-762-7899.
Applying for Energy Assistance:
- Infoline: 2-1-1
- Energy Assistance Hot Line: 1-800-842-1132
- Energy Assistance web site
- Assistance for Hearing Impaired Persons:
- Infoline has TDD available.
- Relay Connecticut acts as a message relay service between deaf and hearing people. Dial 7-1-1 (English and Spanish). Visit www.relayconnecticut.com.
- Commission on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired has interpreting services and other assistance. TTY/voice: 860-231-8756 or 1-800-708-6796.
Help Resolving Utility Problems:
- Consumer Assistance Unit is a part of the DPUC that helps utility consumers. DPUC, 10 Franklin Sq., New Britain, CT 06051. Call: 1-800-382-4586 or 860-827-2622. www.ct.gov/dpuc
- Office of Consumer Counsel represents utility customers from throughout Connecticut. OCC, 10 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051. Call: 860-827-2900. (www.ct.gov/occ)
- Legal Aid. Call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320 or 860-344-0380.
This pamphlet was produced by the Legal Assistance Resource Center of CT in cooperation with Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and Statewide Legal Services.
The information in this pamphlet is based on laws in CT as of December 2009. We hope that the information is helpful. It is not intended as legal advice for an individual situation. If you need further help and have not done so already, please call Statewide Legal Services (see above) or contact an attorney.
Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).
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