In just two years, the difference between what Connecticut residents can afford, and what they actually owe for energy costs has doubled.
Operation Fuel, a state-wide, non-profit emergency energy assistance group, has released its annual report which looks at the energy affordability gap facing low income households.
2008 numbers show the gap is now more than $510 million, and affects more than 231,000 households.
Operation Fuel Executive Director Patricia Wrice says the problem is no longer limited to just low-income families.
"We are now seeing increased demand, and I think some of that is attributed to the economy, as people are getting laid off," says Wrice. "And the winter quite frankly, it's been kind of cold. Colder than this time last year."
The group is proposing some long-term solutions for funding energy assistance. These include increased funding for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance program known as LIHEAP, a more aggressive approach to fundraising, and affordable rate-assistance through the state's public utility companies, which has been adopted by several Northeast states.
Economist Roger Colton authored the report. He says discounts to customers also benefit companies.
He says allowing customers to pay their bills on time drastically reduces expenses linked to non-payment, such as costly disconnections.