Utility Assistance Starts November 1 for Low Income Coloradoans

Although Colorado has experienced a rather mild fall, some predictions are that Coloradoans may be in for a long cold winter.  Long cold winter days bring high heating bills.

Colorado is participating in the Low Income Energy Assistance or LEAP program. LEAP will help to pay a portion of the monthly heating costs, but not electrical costs (unless the home is heated with electricity).

LEAP will help with costs for natural gas, propane, wood, steam, and electrical heat.   LEAP is not meant to pay the total heating bill for a household.

LEAP benefits start November 1, 2015 and continue through April 30, 2016.  Applications can be mailed, faxed, or e-mailed if the county department of human services accepts electronic mail.  Most counties are accepting electronic filings.

Households qualify for LEAP if the monthly income for a single individual is less than $1,618 per month ($2,190 for a couple), if the individual pays home heating costs to a utility company or to a landlord as part of rent and is a permanent legal resident and a Colorado resident.  Individuals who live in low income housing who only pay a third of their income in rent and who do not pay electricity as a separate bill are not eligible for LEAP.

To apply individuals need to submit a copy of the completed and signed application with Social Security numbers and birth dates of members of the household, proof of income for the past year, a copy of the most recent heating bill (or a copy of the rent receipt showing that heat is included in the rent), as well as a readable copy of a valid photo identification.  Individuals must also complete and sign the affidavit of lawful presence.

Individuals who received LEAP benefits in 2014-15 will automatically receive an application form in the mail if they are still living at the same address.  Others may call 303-333-3482 or 1-800-HEAT-HELP.

At this time of the year, many households are faced with non-working furnaces.  Energy Outreach Colorado operates the Crises Intervention Program.  This is an emergency home furnace repair or replacement program for qualifying low-income Coloradans. Qualified vendors are trained to trouble-shoot the problem as well as repair (or replace) the furnace.  For assistance call 1-855-469-4328.

The Colorado Energy Office offers a free Weatherization Program for low income individuals to make the household more energy efficient.  These cost-effective improvements and upgrades reduce energy usage, save money, and improve the overall comfort of the home year-round. Weatherization improvements may include:  light bulb retrofits, air sealing, insulation in attic, furnace safety testing, furnace repair or replacement, refrigerator replacement, and storm windows and doors.

Individuals who receive Old Age Pension, Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, SNAP (food stamps), or LEAP automatically qualify.  Individuals not receiving benefits can qualify if their annual income is less than $1962 ($2655 for a couple) in gross income per month.   Call 303-333-3482 or 303-226-5059 to find a vendor in your area who can determine if your household is eligible to receive services.

Homes that were weatherized prior to September 30, 1994 are not eligible.  Renters who live in a single family residence, or a duplex, triplex or four-plex as well as homeowners are eligible for the program. Some multi-family units with the same heating source are also eligible.

Another program that is available to low income individuals who qualify for LEAP is the Property Tax/Rent/Heat Credit Program, sometimes referred to as the PTC 104.  Individuals who are 65 and over or disabled, who have resided in Colorado for the entire year in a building that the owner pays property taxes, and who makes less than $12,720 per year or $17,146 for a couple per year are eligible for a minimum of $250 per year and a maximum of $792.  Individuals who need an application can call 303-333-3482 or 303-238-7378.

Some counties and municipalities also offer property tax and rent credit programs such as Denver which offers the Payment to the Elderly and Disabled Program.  Check with your county department of revenue.

For copies of application forms, locations of when and where to file forms, and other assistance with any of these programs, call 303-333-3482.

About the Author

Eileen Doherty

Eileen Doherty, MS has been the Executive Director of the Colorado Gerontological Society since 1982. She has more than 40 years of experience in education and training, advocacy, clinical practice, and research in the field of gerontology. She is an adjunct instructor at Fort Hays State University teaching non-profit management. She can be reached at 303-333-3482 or at doherty001@att.net.

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