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LEAP kicks off season — help with heating bills

Colorado’s Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP), which provides financial assistance with home heating bills, will begin accepting applications on Monday, Nov. 1, and will continue to do so until April 30, 2011.

LEAP is a federally funded program that 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 income of $3,400 per month before taxes for a household of four people.

According to Todd Jorgensen, director of LEAP, the average LEAP benefit is estimated to be $273 per household. The minimum benefit a household could receive is currently $200 and the maximum is $700.

“Due to the continuing difficult economy, many Colorado families may need assistance with their heating bills this year,” said Jorgensen. “While the ability to heat one’s house during the winter is something that many of us take for granted, each year there are thousands of Coloradans who simply need a helping hand.”

According to Jorgensen, LEAP saw a 15-percent increase in Colorado households receiving LEAP assistance during the 2009-2010 season with 123,389 household receiving an average benefit amount of $509.14. Last year, 149,248 people applied for the program.

LEAP eligible households may also qualify for the Crisis Invention Program and the Governor’s Energy Office’s Weatherization Program. The CIP operates year-round and provides assistance with a home’s primary heating source such as a furnace or wood-burning stove. The Weatherization Program improves the energy efficiency in homes throughout Colorado, permanently reducing heating costs.

To qualify for LEAP, applicants must be responsible for paying heating costs directly to an energy provider, fuel dealer or as part of rent; be a permanent legal resident 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. Valid forms of identification include, but are not limited to:

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.

Completed LEAP applications can be faxed, mailed or delivered to the appropriate office. Call (866) 432-8435 to have an application mailed to your home.

Visit any county department of social/human services across the state.

To locate your county’s office, visit the program’s website at www.cdhs.state.co.us/leap/index.html.

Download and print an application from www.cdhs.state.co.us/leap.

To find out if you qualify for LEAP, call toll free (866) 432-8435 or visit www.cdhs.state.co.us/leap to view the most current program application requirements.