HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — There is hope for struggling Connecticut families in the new year.

Additional money is coming to the state for families who qualify for energy assistance. The big spending package approved by Congress included an extra $20 million dollars in home heating aid.

Kristina and Tyrell Walton both work multiple jobs to support four kids, yet find themselves on energy assistance.

“I’m not really sure what happened. I guess the increase in oil prices, losing time at work from COVID and just we found ourselves needing the extra help,” Kristina Walton said.

They are happy to see unseasonably warm temperatures. It means they can turn down the thermostat at their Oxford home.

They recently paid $750 to fill the 200-gallon fuel tank in their basement.

Tyrell Walton said that’s double what it cost last year. “You got to figure out what you’re going to do and where you’re going to pull the money from to be able to heat your home.”

The tough economy and inflation are causing families in Connecticut to struggle to afford their heating bills.

“Either you have the money to put the oil in the tank at the price they tell you at the minimum delivery amount that they tell you, or you don’t have heat,” Tyrell Walton said.

Increased demand for home heating assistance programs means more families compete for state financial assistance.

At a roundtable last month Walton expressed concern about the struggle. State senator Kevin Kelly and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro acted after the roundtable.

Congress passed a federal budget that included an additional $1 billion for the nation’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

Connecticut will receive an additional $20 million in heating aid. Families can get up to $2,320 in total benefits for fuel delivery.

For specific households, that means a 63% increase. For the Waltons, it could mean $430 dollars more to help fill the oil tank.

“A huge relief,” Kristina Walton said. “It’s huge because we are just in January and we have already exhausted our funds, you know, for the year and we still have some time to go.”

Utilities are barred from turning off the electricity in the winter, but there are no laws protecting families who heat with oil.

It’s an issue this couple would like to see lawmakers tackle in the new year.

“The things that were caused by COVID, we are still recuperating from. And I would just like to get beyond that, you know, and be back to where we were before,” Kristina Walton said.

“Fresh start. You know,” Tyrell Walton said.

When the additional federal money dries up, state lawmakers have set aside $30 million of remaining federal American Rescue Plan funding to help families stay warm.

Interested households should apply online at ct.gov/heatinghelp or contact their local community action agency.

Additional assistance is available by calling 2-1-1.