If funding promised by Gov. Ned Lamont and Eversource come through, Operation Fuel will double the maximum amount of its heating assistance grants and raise its income limits to help more people manage record high prices.
Operation Fuel intends to offer grants up to $1,000 to heating customers earning up to the state median income – $66,270 for an individual, and $127,443 for a household of four — when it begins accepting applications for its winter heating assistance program on Dec. 19,
Lamont announced last week that Eversource had committed to giving $10 million of shareholder money to Operation Fuel. United Illuminating parent company Avangrid also agreed to pay Operation Fuel $3 million to settle claims by state regulators that its electric and gas subsidiaries illegally tried to garnish customers’ wages during a COVID-related state-wide moratorium on utility shut offs.
Operation Fuel Executive Director Brenda Watson said that she had not received official confirmation of the additional $13 million, but if it comes through as promised, it will allow the nonprofit to increase its grants from $500, and raise its income limits from 80 percent of the state median income.
The funds are a major boost for Operation Fuel, which was already seeing a significant increase in requests for help during its summer to fall season, when demand for its heating assistance is typically much lower than its winter to spring season.
Without the additional money, Operation Fuel would have only about $2.5 million to help heating customers from December to June, she said.
An Eversource spokesman told CT Examiner that the company is working with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Office of Consumer Counsel on the details of how the funds will be distributed.
Avangrid and the Office of Consumer Counsel last week agreed to settle claims from PURA that the company’s collections practices during the COVID moratorium of utility shutoffs violated state law, for which regulators ordered Avangrid to pay $4.48 million to Operation Fuel in November.
Avangrid had appealed that fine before agreeing to pay $3 million to Operation Fuel to resolve those claims. Consumer Counsel Claire Coleman said the settlement was meant to ensure the money went to help customers deal with high supply price increases coming this January, knowing Avangrid intended to keep fighting PURA’s findings in an appeal that could have gone on for years.
“We feel it’s important to ensure that those who haven’t experienced energy insecurity before, but might be experiencing it this winter due to the supply prices, were able to obtain assistance,” Coleman said.