LEAP increases benefit amount

Colorado’s Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP), which provides financial assistance with utility bills has announced a funding increase. This increase means that more money is available to assist hard working Coloradans with their heating bills this winter.

LEAP began accepting applications on Nov. 1.

According to Todd Jorgensen, director of LEAP, the program has received additional Federal funding that will enable LEAP to increase its minimum benefit by 75 percent to approximately $350 per household from $200. The maximum benefit will increase by approximately 25 percent to about $900 from $700.

LEAP provides cash assistance to help families and individuals pay winter home heating costs. The program pays the highest benefits to those with the highest heating bills and lowest incomes by family size. Applicant income cannot exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty index, which equals a maximum monthly income of $3,269 per month before taxes for a household of four people.

“LEAP plays an important role in helping many Colorado families cover their utility costs during the cold winter months,” said Jorgensen. “With the price of utility bills expected to increase this year and with the current tough economic times, Coloradans will need assistance meeting these costs more than ever.”

In 2007-2008 approximately 92,000 Colorado households received LEAP payment assistance, giving them much needed warmth, according to the Colorado Department of Human Services.

Those eligible for the LEAP may also qualify for the Crisis Intervention Program (CIP). The CIP operates year-round and provides assistance with a home’s primary heating source such as a furnace.

To qualify for LEAP, applicants must be responsible for paying heating costs to either a utility company or a landlord as part of rent. Applicants must also be permanent legal residents of the United States and Colorado or have household members that are U.S. citizens.

LEAP applicants must provide a copy of valid identification and a completed affidavit indicating that they are lawfully present in the United States with their program applications. Currently, the following valid forms of identification are accepted.

1. Colorado Driver’s License or Colorado Identification card; or,

2. United States Military Identification Card or Military Dependent’s Identification card; or,

3. United States Coast Guard Merchant Mariner card; or,

4. Native American Tribal document.

As defined by the Colorado Department of Revenue, other forms of identification may be required as well. For more information on lawful presence requirements, contact the DOR or visit their Web site located at www.revenue.state.co.us/main/home.asp

LEAP applications are accepted from Nov. 1 to April 30 of each year. Potential program applicants can apply several ways:

1. Call (866) 432-8435 to order a mailed application.

2. Applications are available at every county department of social/human services.

3. Most utility companies keep a supply of LEAP applications and instruction sheets.

4. Many community agencies, like Catholic Charities, stock LEAP applications.

For more information about LEAP, call (866) 432-8435 or visit www.cdhs.state.co.us/leap to view the most current program application requirements.