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With heating costs high, energy assistance program faces cuts

For low-income families, the state of Colorado’s Low-income Energy Assistance Program has offered at least some relief from this year’s record-high heating costs.

But Glenn Cooper, manager of LEAP for the Colorado Department of Social Services, is concerned chunks of funding for the program are heading for the chopping block.

“There’s every indication heating costs are going to continue at current levels,” said Cooper, “but our funding sources aren’t.”



Begun in 1980, LEAP helps qualified applicants pay a portion of their heating bills. And in a partnership with Xcel Energy, every LEAP client receives a 60-day grace period on billing, which prevents the heat being shut off on past due accounts.

Cooper’s current budget hovers around $35 million annually. Cooper expects the majority of LEAP’s budget that comes from federal funding to remain constant.



However, he’s worried about lost revenue for the winter of 2004-05 from three sources.

A one-time $10 million grant LEAP received for the winter of 2003-04 from Gov. Bill Owens’ office isn’t expected to be repeated.

In addition, LEAP faces the loss of millions of dollars a year. That money has been coming from a 13-year agreement with Xcel Energy, which committed to paying those funds to the state as a result of de-commissioning the St. Vrain nuclear power plant near Longmont. That agreement expires this year.

Leaps and bounds

Applications to receive assistance from LEAP have been growing by leaps and bounds in the past four years. According to Cooper, in 1999, 49,000 families state-wide applied for assistance. So far this winter, that number has increased to 95,000, and Cooper expects applications will top out at 106,000.

In Garfield County, application numbers also continue to rise. In 2003, 548 people applied for assistance. So far this year, 619 people have submitted applications.

But because of upcoming cuts, Cooper said, it’s going to be difficult to keep up with low-income families’ needs.

‘Everyone gets

something’ ” but less

Cooper said other states handle heating assistance programs on a first-come, first-served basis. But not in Colorado.

“With LEAP, everyone gets something,” he said.

However, with cuts imminent, Cooper said recipients will receive a smaller percentage of assistance for their heating bills.

Cooper said in Garfield County, LEAP’s average assistance this winter equals $293 per family. But he anticipates next winter’s average to be around $200.

Other assistance

LEAP, in partnership with Energy Outreach Colorado, also has a crisis intervention program that allows for an extra $1,500 per family for furnace and broken window repairs.

Another program offered through LEAP and the Governor’s Office of Energy Management and Conservation provides home weatherization services for up to 2,500 low-income families.

Even with budget cuts on the horizon, LEAP is accepting applications for assistance for this winter’s heating bills (see information box).

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

cclick@postindependent.com

Gross household monthly income limits:

1 person $1,384

2 people $1,869

3 people $2,353

4 people $2,837

In addition, applicants must pay home heating costs to an energy provider or as part of rent; and must be a permanent and legal resident of the United States and Colorado.

Local LEAP contact information:

In Rifle

Gail Shoeppner

625-5282, ext. 102

902 Taughenbaugh Blvd., #202

Rifle, CO 81650

In Glenwood Springs:

945-9191

2014 Blake Ave.

Glenwood Springs, CO 81601


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