For many people, fall is the best season of the year. The weather is cooler and there are brightly colored leaves on the trees, apples, pumpkin spice…and the kids are back in school!
While being back in school can be an exciting time for many, it also can be a difficult time for some of our neighbors who are struggling with home energy bills. It’s no secret that Connecticut has the highest energy rates in the nation, but what is not so widely known is that over 322,000 Connecticut households can’t afford the cost of home energy. For some schoolchildren, this means going home to a house with no electricity.
My daughter’s second grade teacher recently told me about one of her former students who wasn’t able to do his homework because there was no electricity, and therefore no lights at home. This teacher anonymously paid the electric bill for the month.
Sadly, this isn’t an isolated incident. While we may not realize it, some of our neighbors currently are struggling with the high cost of home energy along with other basic necessities. The gap between a family’s income and their ability to pay for typical household expenses continues to widen.
Lower and moderate-income families are more vulnerable to energy costs, which are a large portion of their household budgets and impact their ability to purchase food, pay for housing, health care and other necessities.
But there are other consequences as well. When families live with no utilities or heat, they often engage in behaviors that can cause physical harm or even death. Losing electricity can create serious problems including the inability to refrigerate food and medicine, cook meals and have lights and hot water.
Living in a home without utilities is a lease violation, which can lead to families being evicted and ending up homeless. According to the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, it costs the state of Connecticut $120,000 a year to provide for a homeless family who is living in a shelter.
With a little help from everyone, Operation Fuel is trying to prevent a lack of electricity from leading to something much worse. The easiest way to help your neighbors is by contributing one dollar to Operation Fuel’s Add-a-Dollar program. Utility customers can add a dollar when they pay their monthly utility bill by check or online.
Operation Fuel uses 100 percent of the donations made to the Add-a-Dollar program for energy assistance.
Brenda Watson, who lives in Bloomfield, is acting director of Operation Fuel, a statewide nonprofit that provides emergency energy assistance year-round.