Funding cuts jeopardize low-income heating assistance for dozens in Grand County |

Funding cuts jeopardize low-income heating assistance for dozens in Grand County

Tonya Bina
Grand County, CO Colorado

A decrease in federal funding means about 44 residents in Grand County may no longer receive LEAP assistance, or Colorado’s Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, to help with heating bills this winter.

“The Colorado Department of Human Services had to make the difficult decision to reduce the income criteria for the LEAP program from 185 percent to 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines,” said Colorado’s Director of LEAP Todd Jorgenson in prepared statements.

Last year, Grand County received a total of 271 applications and 235 were approved. In Jackson County, 85 residents applied for assistance, 75 were approved, and 15 of those may now be affected by the new poverty guidelines.

Applications for the LEAP program are being accepted (started Nov. 1) until April 30, 2012.

But a glitch in the state’s system caused an error in getting applications to residents who may be eligible for the program, according to program coordinator Mary Bernal, of Grand County Social Services.

“I’m concerned my clients didn’t get their applications,” Bernal said. “We’re very concerned about them and the new people that may not know about the LEAP program. Heat costs go up in the winter, and it may be hard for some to heat their homes.”

Bernal asks potential applicants in both Grand and Jackson counties to seek out applications.

The average LEAP benefit statewide is estimated to be about $325 per household.

With the new guidelines, a family of four’s maximum household income may not exceed $2,794 per month; previously, that amount was $3,400.

“Understandably, this change to LEAP’s income eligibility levels may cause a hardship for many Colorado families,” Jorgenson said, “and we encourage Coloradans not meeting the new criteria to call the HEAT HELP line (1-866-heat-help) to receive information about additional community resources.”

To qualify for LEAP, applicants must be responsible for paying heating costs directly to an energy provider, fuel dealer or as part of rent. Applicants must also be a permanent legal resident of the U.S. and Colorado, or have household members who are U.S. citizens. A heating source can be anything from wood pellets to coal, gas and electric.

LEAP-eligible households may also qualify for repair or replacement of a home’s primary heating system such as furnace or wood-burning stove, as well as improvements to a home’s energy efficiency.

Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603

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