Energy assistance payments delayed

The Department of Social Services (DSS) informed CEMA last week that the Community Renewal Team (CRT) and Action for Bridgeport Community Development (ABCD) did not execute a contract with them to administer the energy assistance program in time for the state to forward them money to cover payments for energy assistance deliveries. DSS notified CEMA that money was deposited on Dec. 4 and checks should be sent to vendors by the end of this week. DSS stated that the delay was caused because a new contract was written and that it required additional review before it could be signed. The state is prohibited from forwarding money to an agency until a contract is properly executed, thus causing payment issues to vendors. Member have also reported that the Human Resources Agency (HRA) Now Opportunities (NOI) were experiencing payment issues, but would also have them resolved this week. CEMA President Chris Herb asked the Low Income Energy Advisory Board (LIEAB) to support a policy that would prohibit community action agencies (CAA) from sending authorizations to vendors if the funds to pay for fuel deliveries were not available. LIEAB tabled the request and asked the CEMA provide more information before they make any recommendations. DSS stated at the LIHEAB meeting that they have 30 days to make payments and that the state acted within the law, even though deliveries were approved without funds to make payments in the Hartford and Bridgeport areas. CEMA's Legislative Committee chaired by Rick Bologna of Westmore Fuel (Greenwich) will be discussing this issue to determine if legislation should be requested to address this issue. Members should communicate to Chris Herb any issues that they are having with the energy assistance program so that we can fix them as soon as the arise.