By Kris Kitto
Special to The SUN
The holidays can be tough on a family’s budget. Gifts and festivities cost a lot and higher monthly heating bills pile on.
This winter, Colorado’s Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) staff wants to encourage all of the state’s residents to make small changes in energy-usage habits so they can save on their home heating costs.
LEAP is a federally funded program administered by the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) that provides cash assistance to help Coloradans pay a portion of 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 150 percent of the federal poverty level, which equates to $2,982 per month for a family of four. This year’s average LEAP benefit is expected to be $430 per household.
“Home heating is crucial for Colorado families, but there’s no denying that it’s expensive,” LEAP Manager Aggie Berens said. “Every family can follow a few small steps to reduce their home-heating costs without greatly impacting their day-to-day lives.”
There are many free ways to save money on energy bills this winter. These include:
• Turning down the thermostat at night or when you’re not home.
• Opening blinds and curtains to take advantage of Colorado’s average 360 days of sunshine.
• Lowering the hot water heater’s temperature to 120 degrees.
• Closing the fireplace damper when not in use.
• Checking the furnace filter monthly for cleanliness.
• Ensuring that furnace ducts are unobstructed.
LEAP-eligible households may also qualify for Colorado’s Crisis Intervention Program or Weatherization Program to help with heating-source repair and efficiency.
LEAP applicants must be responsible for paying heating costs directly to an energy provider or fuel dealer, or as part of their rent; and be permanent legal residents of the United States and Colorado, or have household members who are U.S. citizens.
Colorado also offers a rebate of property tax, rent and heat expenses to low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities. Please visit the Colorado Department of Revenue’s website at https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/tax/property-tax-rent-heat-credit-ptc-rebate-file for more information and the rebate application booklet.
To find out if you qualify for LEAP, call toll-free at (866) HEAT-HELP (866) 432-8435 or visit http://www.colorado.gov/cdhs/leap to view the current program application requirements. Applications will be accepted until April 30, 2015.