Energy Fair Inundated With Needy Families

Melissa Traynor | October 07, 2011 | CAFCA, ChildPlan, Community Renewal Team, Community Resource Center, CRT, Energy Assistance, Energy Fair, Energy Program, LIHEAP

May Have Been Only Chance For Some To Apply For Assistance Before Winter

Only an hour into the Community Resource Center's first "energy fair" — an opportunity for families needing assistance to connect with utilities — organizers realized that Tuesday's event would not suffice.

From 3 to 7 p.m., the East Hartford Middle School library and the resource center's office were used as a meeting place for residents and representatives from Connecticut Light & Power, Connecticut Natural Gas and other organizations.

Resource Center Director Lisa McMahon said that most fair attendees sought the help of the Community Renewal Team, an anti-poverty agency, to apply for heating assistance.

"Some people told us that CRT was booked until March and they couldn't get an appointment," said McMahon. "Some were sitting here waiting just so that they could get help."

"For some of them, this was it," she said, referring to the fact that that Tuesday's fair may have been the last opportunity to register for heating assistance before cold weather sets in.

McMahon said about 80 families were assisted with different concerns, with about 16 of those receiving help from CRT. Many more families were not seen because CRT had limited resources and 16 was the maximum number of families they could help in the four hours of the fair, McMahon said.

Donna Kehoe, executive director of ChildPlan, the resource center's parent organization, said when she arrived at the fair at 2:45 p.m., about 15 to 20 people were already waiting.

State budget cuts that affect CRT may hamper efforts to get residents into assistance programs, Kehoe said.

"We need to advocate to our [state] representatives," she said. "We need to get people around the table and start looking at how we can help these families. We can stop here."

"To me it clearly says that CRT needs to be in the community more often," Kehoe said. "There are more and more people coming in with energy needs."

Some families were in desperate situations, McMahon said, and it is possible that they may have already run out of the heating oil they need, for example, to get them into the winter.

"We made a lot of copies of shutoff notices today," she said.

Connecticut law prohibits heating companies from shutting off service for lack of payment between Nov. 1 and May 1.

McMahon hopes to book a second date with CRT before the end of October so that families will have at least one more opportunity to get into an assistance program.

Traynor, Melissa. The Hartford Courant. "Energy Fair Inundated With Needy Families". October 5, 2011.