As it starts to get cooler in Connecticut, my mind goes to cozy nights at home, getting together with friends and family (socially distanced, of course), and enjoying what the seasons have to offer. But for many in our communities, these colder temperatures bring on stress and worry about being able to afford their monthly energy bill and keep the heat on.

On average, Connecticut residents have the highest residential energy bills in the country.  According to the 2019 Home Energy Affordability Gap Study, the state’s poorest households pay almost half of their annual income on energy bills alone. This situation puts them in crisis mode for most of the year, forcing them to decide between paying their utility bills and sacrificing other essential needs like food, childcare, housing, or medicine.

During the coldest months, people can get desperate to stay warm, and often end up risking their lives by resorting to unsafe methods of heating their homes. Here at the Community Action Agency of Western Connecticut (CAAWC), we know access to electricity and heat is a necessity – something we all have a right to.

CAAWC is one of Connecticut’s nine  community action agencies (CAAs) who administer the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) across the state. LIHEAP helps keep struggling family members, friends, and neighbors safe and healthy by assisting them with energy costs, positively impacting their overall health and wellness.

LIHEAP also screens families to determine their eligibility for other programs and services they may be eligible for like childcare or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. During the 2019-2020 season, CAAWC approved over 5,100 applications for energy assistance in the Greater Stamford and Danbury areas.

Some of our customers had never asked for our help before, but found themselves unemployed due to COVID-19.  We expect even more applications this year, as many residents continue to struggle to find a job and afford other essential needs. If you or someone you know needs help with their energy bills this year, please contact us at (203) 357-0720 (Greater Stamford) or (203) 748-5422 (Greater Danbury) to apply.

We all need help from time to time, and it can be hard to ask for it. However, if you find yourself needing an extra hand to get through a tough time, stop by and visit us! CAAWC and the entire Community Action Agency Network are here to make sure every community in Connecticut is taken care of – not just in times of crisis or in cold weather, but all year long.

Michelle James is the Executive Director of the Community Action Agency of Western Connecticut (CAAWC), the Community Action Agency (CAA) serving 25 cities and towns in western Connecticut, including the Greater Stamford and Danbury areas.   Visit www.caawc.org to learn more, or https://www.cafca.org/agencies/ to find your local CAA and apply for energy assistance.

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