A fuel truck parked at Tuxis Ohr’s Fuel in Meriden Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Connecticut residents seeking help heating their homes have until 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 6, to apply for assistance through Operation Fuel as the nonprofit closes its Summer/Fall application window early due to surging demand. 

The emergency assistance group, which helps residents struggling to heat their homes and pay essential utility bills, opened its seasonal application window on Aug. 1, when it planned to take requests for assistance until Nov. 10. 

However, since then, the program has received more than 3,000 applications for assistance, leading the group to close the window early, Roxanna Booth, Operation Fuel’s advancement and communications officer, said Thursday. 

“Connecticut residents are continuing to struggle with paying their utility bills and that’s even stretching up into higher income residents,” Booth said. “Operation Fuel is just trying to be a good steward of the resources that we do have, prioritizing them for folks that are facing shutoff or fuel customers who are out and facing no heat.”

While Operation Fuel plans to open its application window again on Jan. 2, 2024, those looking to apply before Friday’s deadline can do so online and should first gather documentation of their household’s last four week’s of income, their fuel vendors or utility bills, as well as their payment history. 

The application period marks the second consecutive year in which Operation Fuel has observed heightened levels of demand. Last year, the nonprofit approved around 3,900 applications during its Summer/Fall application period. Two years ago, the program received only around 2,000 applications during the period, Booth said.

“The funding has remained relatively flat but the demand has increased significantly,” Booth said. “We’re seeking more funding from our wonderful community of donors and supporters throughout the state, but without resources on hand, we don’t want to give out false hope and extend the season when we know we’ll be running out of resources we need to conserve for the far more demanding winter season.”

Operation Fuel is supported in part by donors, including utility customers who opt-in to a monthly contribution paid through their utility bills. Booth said residents looking to support the program can also make donations directly from Operation Fuel’s website

In a statement Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly said Republican lawmakers had warned of increased demand for heating assistance and called on Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration and the legislature to do more to help. 

“Connecticut can afford to help all those in need, stay warm,” Kelly said. “While state government’s coffers are full, there’s a substantial part of our state that’s struggling economically. Refusing to help on the grounds that it’s ‘Washington’s responsibility’ is a callous, cold-hearted policy.”