Colorado urges residents who struggle to pay heating bill to ask for help
By Karen Antonacci
The state is urging Coloradans to ask for help with heating bills to avoid going cold this winter. Applications for the 2021 Colorado Low-income Energy Assistance Program are now open. LEAP is a federally-funded block grant that can provide those who qualify with a one-time heating assistance benefit by paying part of a utility bill or helping to alleviate the cost of heating system repairs or replacement.
“We provided more than 76,000 households with heating assistance last year,” LEAP Manager Theresa Kullen said in a press release. “By easing the strain of heating bills on households, families and individuals don’t have to make a choice between buying groceries or critical medications.”
This season may be a busy one for LEAP, which is available November through April. There are more than 13 million Americans unemployed nationwide and a rise in both medical and food expenses. Colorado’s unemployment estimates from August reported that there were more than 206,000 Coloradans out of work for a state unemployment rate of 6.7 percent.
The 2019-2020 Colorado LEAP season was extended from April 30 into the summer to provide relief to families hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Mullen.
“With this year’s program just ramping up, we anticipate that there may be greater need and will do our best to ensure those who need assistance are able to access benefits,” Kullen added.
Non-emergency applications typically take about 30 days to process and emergency applications can be expedited to a 14-day turnaround, according to the Colorado LEAP website. The one-time financial assistance will be paid directly to the utility company.
To qualify for LEAP, a household’s monthly income must fall within 60 percent of the state median income level. That translates to $2,619 or less per month for a one-person household or $5,038 or less per month for a four-person household. The household must include a Colorado resident and at least one U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident. Participation in other public programs such as food stamps or Medicare will not be impacted by a LEAP application People who don’t qualify but still need help with heat are encouraged to still call 1-866-HEAT-HELP because they may qualify for other programs.
Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly spelled Theresa Kullen’s surname. It has now been corrected.