NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — With home heating costs expected to remain high this winter, a Connecticut official has joined a regional call to urge Congress to allocate more funds to helping people pay their energy bills.

Connecticut Consumer Counsel Claire Coleman was among the New England Consumer Advocates who sent a letter to the leaders of the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees asking for extra funding for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program.

The advocates expect it to be a “burdensome winter,” according to the letter, with the average price of electricity to increase from 27.5 to 30.6 centers per kilowatt-hour by the end of 2024’s first quarter.

“LIHEAP has been a lifeline for consumers struggling to pay their home heating bills and Connecticut’s federal delegation has fought hard to deliver this critical relief to residents ahead of each winter season,” Coleman said in a written announcement. “I am grateful for the strong leadership of Ranking Member DeLauro and effective advocacy of the entire delegation for LIHEAP funding in the appropriations process.  The proposed funding levels put forth by the 118th Congress simply will not suffice — that’s why we’ve mobilized our fellow regional advocates to push for higher levels of assistance, which are necessary to address the growing energy burden felt by so many across New England and the country.”

The amount of Connecticut households behind on their utility bills has increased since before the pandemic, according to Coleman, who said that debt often means higher electric bills for people across the state.

Connecticut is currently set to get $84.8 million for energy assistance this winter. Those under the lowest income level will receive a basic benefit of $530 — down from $691 in 2020 and $688 in 2021.

If you need help affording heat this winter, applications for winter energy assistance are now open in Connecticut. Benefits range from $180 to $530, depending on the household’s income, size and need. The program helps households with incomes up to 60% of the state’s median income of approximately $79,910 for a family of four, according to the state.