NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Some new federal money is coming to Connecticut to help people deal with a spike in energy costs.
Thanks to a Congressional spending package passed in Washington just before the holidays, the federal government is sending $5 billion to states to deal with the high energy costs this winter. About $20 million of that funding is coming to Connecticut.
Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined state leaders Wednesday to discuss how that money will help residents.
The increased benefits available through the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program means families in need can get just over $2,300 this winter in energy aid.
State officials said it faces two problems: the spike in energy prices this year and solving the long-term problem of Connecticut having some of the biggest energy bills in the country.
“People should not be forced to choose between heating and eating,” Blumenthal said.
“There are significant subsidies out there right now from the federal government that makes transmission a lot more affordable,” Lamont said. “And that means not just hardening our grid here in the state of Connecticut, but what it means to get power from offshore wind and Quebec hydro here into our region.”
Businesses like Ace Hardware in Waterford say not only do the higher electric rates hurt them but also the surcharges for delivering the electricity. The store expects to see a big impact from the new electricity rates, which are nearly 50% higher than they were before.
“Almost everything gets powered by electricity,” Jack Troncoso of Ace Hardware said. “Our fluorescent lights, our air conditioner during the summer and also the forced hot air from the heating units.”
State legislators are hoping to have more oversight over any new rate increases that Eversource wants to implement.
“They had a nine percent increase in this bill but folks who live just down the street a little bit from me have a fifty percent increase so that’s a dramatic difference,” Rep. Conley said.
A spokesperson for Eversource shared the following statement with News 8:
“We understand there’s been a request for legislation and look forward to seeing the specific language. Until we can review the bill it would be inappropriate to offer comment.”
That bill is still in the very early stages of being crafted, but the message from lawmakers is that they want to have some control over electric rates in the state and a lot of their constituents are asking them to take action.
Gov. Ned Lamont said short-term some relief could come through the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program. Long term he’s hoping offshore wind and other fuel alternative resources will help.
“One of the reasons we have high energy costs in this state is that we’re at the end of the supply chain,” Lamont said. Any bills addressing the rising electric rates are still being written.
Visit ct.gov/heatinghelp or dial 211 to find out if you qualify for home energy help this winter.
If there is a glimmer of good news in this, it is our mild winter. That could change, but being above average through mid-January is cushioning the blow a bit of those high energy costs.