Mild winter eases economic needs

Bitter cold winter seasons are more expensive for families when it comes to heating their homes, but this winter, with its mild weeks of springlike temperatures, has been the opposite, according to the Department of Social Services.
During the winter, 42 Connecticut Energy Assistance Program applications were processed, compared with 58 the previous winter. It was an expenditure of $14,240 in assistance for Wilton residents, compared with $17,270 the previous winter, according to social services staff.
The Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) helps offset the winter heating costs of Connecticut’s lower-income households whose incomes fall at or below 60% of the state median income. Winter heating assistance pays for a household’s primary heating source, such as oil, natural gas, electricity, propane, kerosene, coal, wood, or wood pellets. The amount of heat assistance received through CEAP may not be sufficient to cover a household’s entire winter heating costs; therefore, Social Services also helps eligible clients apply to Operation Fuel.
Operation Fuel partners with more than 100 agencies across the state to provide low-income families with year-round emergency energy assistance. As a nonprofit organization, Operation Fuel raises funds for energy assistance through individuals, corporations and foundations. These funds are distributed as emergency energy assistance grants to qualified applicants who have applied at one of its partner organizations, such as Wilton Social Services. Operation Fuel provides a one-time grant of up to $500 to assist families with their energy bills. Operation Fuel serves households whose income does not exceed 60% of the State Median Income Guidelines, which include, but are not limited to, the elderly, disabled, working families, or individuals facing a financial crisis.
During the winter, Social Services secured about $1,000 in Operation Fuel energy assistance for two households, compared with $3,000 for six households the previous winter.
There is help beyond that. If and when people exhaust the resources of CEAP and Operation Fuel, Social Services assists those eligible with emergency oil deliveries as needed through the Wilton Community Assistance Fund. This is a private, nonprofit Wilton organization that helps families with financial needs in a variety of ways, including meeting their energy needs.
During the winter, 12 emergency oil deliveries totaling $4,071 were made, compared with 11 emergency oil deliveries totaling $2,867 the previous winter.
“Wilton Social Services accepts donations from those interested in helping local families with financial hardship with the cost of heating their homes,” said Colleen Fawcett. She said donations may be made to the Wilton Community Assistance Fund and mailed to or dropped off at Wilton Social Services, 180 School Road, Wilton CT 06897.
“It is the real need some of our residents have when it comes to making ends meet financially, and the work our department does to provide assistance and support to those residents,” Fawcett said.