LEAP provides help with payment of heating bills | PostIndependent.com

LEAP provides help with payment of heating bills

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. As winter comes on with a vengeance this week, people are starting to crank up their furnaces. But there’s always a hesitation in turning up the thermostat because you can almost hear the “chink” of money as you turn the heat up.For those most in need, there is help with paying heating bills.LEAP, a federally funded program administered by state and county human services departments, offers financial assistance on monthly bills. “The program is designed to help low-income people in winter,” said Vickie Johnson, a LEAP technician with the Garfield County Human Services Department.People seeking assistance have to qualify according to income guidelines. In general, anyone who is receiving public assistance, food stamps or an old-age pension is eligible for LEAP assistance, Johnson said.For example, one person must earn no more than $1,511 per month to qualify. A five-person household must make less than $3,609.”You must also agree to weatherization,” she said, which could mean having more insulation installed or recaulking windows to make the home more heat-efficient.”It’s not to say we will come out and do anything,” she added. “They try to see as many people as possible in a year.”LEAP will not pay for an entire month’s heating bill. One-time payments are the norm.”It’s not a continuous or monthly payment,” Johnson said. The amount one person or a household receives will depend on their income and “estimated home heating cost,” or an average of last year’s heating costs from November through April, Johnson said.Each year’s payout depends on how much is appropriated by the federal government, and this year’s amount is lower than last year’s, Johnson said.Last year applicants who qualified received one payment and then a second one later in the winter when funds were released by the federal government.This year, payments range from a minimum of $100 to a maximum of $800, said Xcel Energy spokeswoman Ethnie Groves. She explained that the state LEAP office alerts them to who is receiving benefits and the company then flags their account. LEAP payments actually go to Xcel directly. According to the LEAP Web site, during the winter of 2005-06, LEAP recipients statewide received an average benefit of $549. LEAP assisted a total of 107,356 households and had 128,796 applications, both record numbers.In Garfield County, the average benefit was $505, and 675 people received LEAP assistance.Johnson said her office in Rifle receives about 15 applications per day for LEAP assistance.LEAP also provides help for people who have been unable to keep up with their heating bills and receive a shut-off notice.”If they have a shut-off notice we can put a hold on it and pay a portion of their bill,” Johnson said. Most local utilities, including the city of Glenwood Springs, Xcel Energy and Kinder Morgan, will put a 10-day hold on a shut-off notice if notified by the county that a qualified person is seeking assistance, giving them a chance to come up with the money owed and to get financial aid from LEAP.To get emergency help, a person must come to either the Rifle or Glenwood Springs Human Services office with a copy of their pay stubs – to prove they meet the income guidelines – as well as a copy of their heating bill and a picture identification, Johnson said.Applications for the LEAP program are accepted any time from Nov. 1 to Mar. 31.Those wishing to apply may come in person to the human services offices in Glenwood Springs or Rifle, or call 1-866-HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435).Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 16605dgray@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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