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Operation Fuel reports record number of Connecticut residents seeking help paying utility bills

It may still be summer, but the number of Connecticut residents seeking help paying their utility bills is already on a record pace, the executive director of a Hartford-based nonprofit said.

"We're hoping that we do not have to turn people away. Or we might have to lower the grant amounts," said Brenda Watson, executive director of Operation Fuel, which provides assistance statewide to people struggling with home utility bills.

Watson said Operation Fuel typically budgets $1.7 million for this time of year, and the request for aid is already coming close to that mark. She said she hopes demand slows before the October application deadline.

“It's really quite astonishing. We've never seen this many people apply at this time of year before," Watson said. She said Operation Fuel has received about 2,000 applications -- including an increase in residents seeking fuel assistance this time of year.

As winter nears, state and federal lawmakers concerned about energy prices

Natural gas prices hit a 14-year high in mid-August, and the U.S. Energy Department is raising concerns about the lack of heating oil inventory in New England.

Connecticut residents who need help can still apply at www.operationfuel.org or call 2-1-1 to find a location for one of its 57 fuel banks across the state.

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.
Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.