New legislator from Shelton casts first vote in Hartford

Newly elected state Rep. Ben McGorty of Shelton has cast his first vote as a legislator.

On Tuesday, McGorty voted in committee for a state Department of Social Services plan that allocates federal funds for Connecticut low-income residents who need heating assistance.

McGorty assumed office following a July 22 special election in the 122nd House District, which includes almost half of Shelton as well as small parts of Stratford and Trumbull. He is a Republican, and replaced the late Larry Miller, who died in late May after almost 24 years in office.

Meeting of three committees

The vote took place at the Legislative Office Building following a public hearing arranged by the Human Services, Energy and Appropriations committees, whose members convened over funding to the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program and the Contingency Heating Assistance Program. Both are funded through a federal program.

The federal government will provide Connecticut with an anticipated $79.2 million for 2014-15, and members of the legislative panels voiced concerns about managing a 7% federal funding reduction should the state experience a harsh and long winter similar to that of last year.

‘This assistance is critical’

“This assistance is critical to many residents,” said McGorty. “For many this assistance is the difference between making it through and having to choose between heating fuel and having meals. That’s a choice we don’t want anyone to have to make.”

Nonprofit agency advocates have said they expect more people than ever to apply for assistance.

The two state programs help residents with limited incomes to pay energy costs, including heat during the winter. One program alone assists more than 100,000 households a year.

How to get assistance

Among the other discussion points at the joint committee meeting was the concern that too many residents who might need heating help aren’t aware of assistance programs.

Residents who need energy assistance to pay bills for oil, natural gas, coal or other deliverable heating methods should call the state info line at 2-1-1.