Location:
ENERGY ASSISTANCE;
Scope:
Connecticut laws/regulations;

OLR Research Report


October 5, 2011

 

2011-R-0355

2011-2012 ENERGY ASSISTANCE PLAN

By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst

You asked for a summary of the 2011-12 Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) plan recently approved by the Energy and Technology, Human Services, and Appropriations committees.

SUMMARY

CEAP is a federally-funded program that helps low- and moderate- income households pay their heating bills. The Department of Social Services (DSS) administers the program through the state's 12 community action agencies. DSS projects that approximately 122,000 households will participate in the program this heating season.

The funding level for this year's program is not known at this time, but is likely to be substantially less than last year's funding. In part this is because, unlike last year, there are no carry-over funds. Congress appears likely to appropriate less for the program this year than last. In addition, DSS projects that the program's caseload will increase by 4% over least year. The approved plan projects spending $61.6 million on CEAP in the 2011-12 program year, compared to approximately $115 million last year.

The structure of the program is largely the same as in previous years. However, to address the expected reduction in funding, the 2011-12 plan substantially reduces benefits. Under this year's plan, the program is available to eligible households with incomes up to 60% of the state median income. As in prior years, the plan limits the amount of liquid assets a participating household can have.

As in prior years, the plan provides three major types of benefits, with greater benefits for “vulnerable” households, i.e., those with an elderly or disabled member or young children, than non-vulnerable households. Homeowners and renters who pay their heating costs directly are eligible for a basic benefit, whether they use a deliverable fuel such as heating oil or heat with natural gas or electricity. As in prior years, the program's crisis assistance and safety net benefits are available only for households who heat with deliverable fuels. A safety net benefit is available only for households who have exhausted their crisis benefit and are in a life-threatening situation. In addition, there is a small benefit for certain low-income renters whose heat is included in their rent.

Under the plan, all of the benefits are contingent on the availability of funding. If the state anticipates that funds are in danger of running out, it reserves the right to close the program or parts of it early. If funding exceeds the amount anticipated in the plan, it authorizes DSS to take various steps, including increasing the crisis assistance or safety net benefits, providing an additional benefit for utility-heated households, and providing heating assistance to DSS-funded homeless shelters.

The plan also describes the program's schedule and how participating heating oil dealers are paid, among other things.

Under CGS 16-262c, households who heat with natural gas or electricity who (1) have arrearages in their accounts (2) are eligible and apply for CEAP are also eligible for payments to match payments the household may make to reduce its arrearage. The matching payments are financed by other ratepayers.

ELIGIBILITY

Income

The basic and crisis assistance benefits under CEAP are available for eligible households with incomes up to 60% of the state median income (i.e., up to $51,472 for a three-person household). The income limit for the safety net benefit is 200% of FPL for vulnerable households and 150% of FPL for non-vulnerable households. The income limit for the rental assistance benefit is 150% of FPL.

Table 1 shows the income categories used in the program for one-, two-, three-, and four- person households. The income limits are higher for larger households, increasing with each additional member. For example, at the 150% of FPL level, the limit increases by $5,730 per household member.

Table 1: Program Income Categories by Household Size

 

1-person

Household

2-person

Household

3-person

household

4-person

household

100% of FPL

$10,890

$14,710

$18,530

$22,350

125% of FPL

$13,613

$18,388

$23,163

$27,938

150% of FPL

$16,335

$22,065

$27,795

$33,525

200% of FPL

$21,780

$29,420

$37,060

$44,700

60% of

state median

$31,863

$41,667

$51,472

$61,276

Assets

In addition to meeting the income limits, a household generally can have no more $7,000 in liquid assets ($10,000 for homeowners) in order to be eligible for the program. Liquid assets include such things as bank accounts and stocks; individual retirement accounts (IRAs) held in the name of someone in the household who is at least 59 years old also count as liquid assets. However, a household whose liquid assets exceed these numbers is still eligible if the excess assets plus the household's income is less than the maximum allowable income. For example, a 2-person vulnerable household with a home and liquid assets of $12,000 ($2,000 in excess assets) and income of $27,000 would still be eligible for the program because its income and excess assets are still below the maximum allowable income level for that type of household (200% of FPL or $29,420).

Other Eligibility Criteria

The program is open to citizens and permanent legal aliens (e.g., people with “green cards”). People who are in the country on temporary visas, such as student or tourist visas, and undocumented aliens are not eligible. Applicants must supply their Social Security numbers (except for individuals not required to have a number, such as victims of human trafficking) and DSS has procedures to verify these numbers.

Individuals who knowingly misrepresent their circumstances are ineligible to receive benefits for the current program year and the two subsequent program years.

BENEFITS

Basic Benefit

CEAP provides a basic benefit to eligible households who use deliverable fuels, natural gas, or electricity for heating and pay directly for their heat. As Table 2 indicates, the benefit is higher for vulnerable than non-vulnerable households and decreases with household income. For non-vulnerable households with incomes between 151% and 200% of the FPL, and for all eligible households with incomes between 201% of FPL and 60% of state median income, the basic benefit and crisis benefit (described below) is called CHAP.

Table 2: 2011-12 Basic Benefit

 

Vulnerable

Household

Non-vulnerable

Household

Up to 100% of FPL

$255

$220

101% to 125% of FPL

$220

$195

126% to 150% of FPL

$195

$175

151% to 200% of FPL

$175

$100 (CHAP)

201% of FPL to

60% of state median

$100 (CHAP)

$100 (CHAP)

Crisis Benefit

As in previous years, the crisis benefit is only available for households who use deliverable fuels and who have exhausted their basic benefit. As Table 3 indicates, the benefit is higher for vulnerable than non-vulnerable households and decreases with household income. The community action agency handling the case must authorize the crisis benefit before the fuel can be delivered to the client.

Table 3: Crisis Benefit

 

Vulnerable

Household

Non-vulnerable

Household

Up to 100% of FPL

$530

$495

101% to 125% of FPL

$475

$450

126% to 150% of FPL

$425

$400

151% to 200% of FPL

$375

$300 (CHAP)

201% of FPL to

60% of state median

$300 (CHAP)

$300 (CHAP)

Safety Net Benefit

The safety net benefit is only available for deliverable fuel heated CEAP households who have exhausted their crisis benefit and who are in a life-threatening situation. This is a situation where the household cannot obtain heating fuel and is either without fuel or within one week of being without fuel. The community action agency must complete a risk assessment before the benefit is provided that reviews the household's income, liquid assets, and expenditures. Non-vulnerable households are eligible to receive one $400 benefit; vulnerable households are eligible to receive two $400 benefits.

Rental Assistance Benefit

Renters whose household income is up to 150% of FPL and whose heating costs are included in their rent are also eligible for CEAP assistance if their rent is more than 30% of their gross income. The benefit is $20 for households with incomes up to 100% of FPL, $15 for those with incomes between 101% and 125% of FPL, and $10 for those with incomes between 126% and 150% of FPL.

OTHER PROVISIONS

November 15 is the first day for authorization of fuel deliveries under the program. March 15 is the last day a household can apply to establish its eligibility for the program and the last day for fuel authorization. April 30 is the last day to submit deliverable fuel bills.

In addition to the heating benefits described above, households that participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) get a $1 cash benefit. Under federal law, this qualifies the household to have its standard utility allowance recalculated under this program, which usually will increase its SNAP benefit.

Heating oil and other deliverable fuel dealers can choose to participate in CEAP. Participating heating oil dealers receive the New Haven Rack Average OPIS Price, which reflects the wholesale cost of oil plus 31 cents per gallon, plus a transportation differential. The transportation differential varies by county and ranges from 1.7 cents per gallon in New Haven County to 7 cents per gallon in Windham County.

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