During the holiday season, many families face the added expense of gifts and festivities in addition to a noticeable increase in their monthly heating bills. This winter, Colorado’s Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) wants all Colorado families to know that small changes in energy usage habits can result in significant savings to home heating costs.
LEAP is a federally funded program that provides cash assistance to help families and individuals 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 $2,944 per month for a family of four. According to Aggie Berens, LEAP manager, the average LEAP benefit is estimated to be $425 per household. To date, more than 50,000 Coloradans have applied for LEAP this season.
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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;
• Taking advantage of Colorado’s 360 days of sunshine and letting the sun into your home by opening blinds and curtains in the winter;
• Turning down the temperature on the hot water heater to 120 degrees;
• Closing the fireplace damper when not in use;
• Checking the furnace filter once a month for cleanliness; and
• Ensuring that the furnace ducts are clear of all objects.
When minor changes to a home’s energy efficiency are not enough and costly repairs are needed to properly keep a family warm, LEAP eligible households may also qualify for the Crisis Invention Program (CIP) and the Colorado 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, thereby 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 their 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. 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 accepted as well. For more information on lawful presence requirements, contact the DOR or visit www.colorado.gov/revenue.
The State of Colorado also offers a rebate of property tax, rent, and heat expenses to low income seniors and disabled persons. Known as the Property Tax/Rent/Heat Credit (PTC) rebate, the maximum property tax rebate is $660 and the maximum heat expenses rebate is $192. The rebate is administered by the Colorado Department of Revenue.
Please visit www.colorado.gov for more information and the rebate application booklet.
Completed LEAP applications can be faxed, mailed or delivered to the appropriate county office. Potential program applicants may obtain an application through the following:
· Call 1-866-HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435) to have an application mailed.
· Visit any county department of social/human services across the state. To locate your county’s office, visit the program’s website at www.colorado.gov/cdhs/leap.
· Download and print an application from www.colorado.gov/cdhs/leap.
To find out if you qualify for LEAP, call toll free 1-866-HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435) or visit www.colorado.gov/cdhs/leap to view the most current program application requirements.