HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Will Connecticut families be out in the cold this winter?

Many families around the state are trying to figure out whether to fill their oil tanks to heat their homes, or to leave them half empty because they need money to eat. Meanwhile, state leaders continue to battle over a potential assistance program.

Right now, home heating oil is about $3.79 per gallon, but oil industry experts expect that to change next month. On average, that is a little more than $1,042 to fill a 275-gallon tank for the winter. Those prices are expected to soar.

That will affect everyone, according to Elizabeth Vinick, the executive director of the Community Renewal Team.

“It’s the family you see at the grocery store buying groceries,” she said. “It’s the senior down the street.”

Community Renewal Team is bracing. There is no more federal COVID-19 relief coming to help. Close to 100,000 could be affected statewide, with 22,000 in Hartford County alone.

Last year, the state received $135 million in federal block grants for low-income heating assistance. This year, that has been cut to $80 million. Inflation isn’t helping.

We know that prices are high and we are looking for any extra funding to help our customers,” Vinick said.

State lawmakers are at odds over where that extra money will come from.

“When you need heat, you need heat,” Connecticut Sen. Kevin Kelly, Republican majority leader, said. “This will be a crisis.”

Republicans handed over signed petitions to the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s office. They want to force lawmakers back to the capital for a special session to deal with the home heating issue.

Democrats say to wait.

“Let us see what Congress does,” Connecticut Rep. Matt Ritter, Democratic House speaker, said. “If we get to November or December and we still see higher prices or inaction by Congress, then it is worth a conversation.”

Gov. Ned Lamont’s spokesperson told News 8 that Republicans’ call for action on a federally funded program is premature.

“Governor Lamont supports additional federal funds being added to the program to support working families and seniors,” a statement to News 8 reads. “Should Senator Kelly and Rep. Candelora want to take action on affordability and home heating assistance, they should implore their Republican counterparts in congress, Senator Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to accept the President’s request for $500 million additional dollars on top of existing home heating assistance funding.”

Republicans fear seniors will make a dangerous decision to heat their homes by opening the oven.

Leaders urge action.

“We are asking Democrats to find it in their hearts to sign on to the petition,” Kelly said.

Candelora said the program, which saw a cut last year, is expected to see more people — on top of an increase in fuel costs.

“So to say that this program is OK the way it is…is completely nonsensical,” Candelora said.

Meantime, a majority needs to sign off to force lawmakers back to the capital for a vote.

By law, the signatures must be collected by Sept. 30. If 50%, plus one signature, is collected, the Connecticut Secretary of the State can call the legislature to order.