For the poorest in our state, winter is a desperate — and sometimes dangerous — time.
Some 40 percent of Connecticut households won't be able to afford adequate home heating this winter, says the nonprofit group Operation Fuel.
Those households must make difficult, and sometimes dangerous, choices. Some people may rely on portable electric heaters. Others will forgo medicine, even food, to be able to stay warm.
And this in a state that, according to U.S. Census figures, has the country's highest median household income. It's a shameful situation.
There are two major sources of funds for those unable to pay for heat. One is the federally funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known as LIHEAP. Last year, it provided some $79.5 million to state residents. The program, which is administered by the state, is expected to remain at that level this season, although Congress has not yet passed a budget.
The other source is Operation Fuel, which hopes to give some $3.5 million in assistance. There are also several much smaller local funds.
But these sources come nowhere near filling the need, according to Operation Fuel.
State laws forbid utilities from shutting off service in cold weather, so those who heat with electricity or natural gas are covered until May. They will then, of course, face huge bills. But heating oil is not considered a utility, and those who use it remain vulnerable all season long.
At their best, stopgap measures such as LIHEAP are partial, temporary solutions to large and complex problems. Real answers to the home heating crisis involve more than paying a few families' bills for a time.
Until the question "Would you rather be cold or hungry?" is no longer asked by Congress and state legislators, poor people — especially the very old and the very young — will remain pawns in this cruel seasonal exercise.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun