“This is not politics, these are the people in need,” Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly said.
HARTFORD, Connecticut – The cost of heating your home is soaring, and Senate and House Republican leaders on Monday filed petitions requesting a special legislative session to address funding for home heating assistance.
They say the current program budget won’t last, but state Democrats argue that Republicans are just playing politics.
“This is not politics, this is needy,” said Senate Republican leader Senator Kevin Kelly (R-Stratford).
RELATED: State leaders discuss allocating funds to help soar energy costs
Last week, average retail heating oil prices in Connecticut were about $4.80 a gallon. That’s slightly lower than previous weeks, but still 68% higher than this time last year.
“When you need heat, you need heat,” Kelly said. “This will be a crisis.”
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps residents afford heating costs for their homes, but this year Connecticut is receiving fewer federal dollars than in previous years.
The state is getting a proposed $79 million in fiscal year 2023, which begins Oct. 1, and state Republicans say that money isn’t enough to run the program, citing an expected increase in applicants coupled with the rising cost of oil.
“This is an issue that needs to be addressed now, in order to get the program working properly,” said House Republican Leader Rep. Vincent Candelora (R-North Branford). “Saying that this program is fine as it is, is completely illogical. On every level, it would be very stressful.”
State Democrats say this call for a special session is “premature.”
They argue that waiting until the next legislative session to take additional measures is a good thing because program applications do not close in the previous winter until May 31, 2023.
They also point to Connecticut’s decision on the winter ban on home power shutdowns, saying people won’t need to “turn to portable electric heaters or gas stoves.”
RELATED: Connecticut Looks to Secure Federal Dollars from Inflation Cuts Act to Fight Climate Change
In a statement, a spokesperson for Governor Ned Lamont wrote:
Republicans are calling a special session to address home heating assistance, a federally funded program, that is premature. President Biden has requested increased funding to help home heating nationwide, including in Connecticut, and Governor Lamont is supporting additional federal funds being added to the program to support working families and seniors. If Senator Kelly and Rep. Candelora want to take action on affordability and help with home heating, they should appeal to their Republican counterparts in Congress, Senator Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to accept the president’s request for an additional $500 million in addition to the existing home. Financing heating assistance.
Republicans claim that the state is counting on millions of dollars in additional federal funding that can be allocated to this program.
“The reality is that there is a real need and people are suffering,” Candelora said. “I would argue that it is they who are doing the politics by not addressing the matter.”
Republicans will need 50% support from each room for a special session. Right now, they only have 10 senators and 40 deputies signed on.
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