LEAP healps needy families stay warm

Cold weather is moving into Northwest Colorado and Greeley Gas customers are about to see their gas bills increasing as the thermometer drops, but there is a way they can decrease the financial strain of those bills.

The Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) may be what low-income families and senior citizens on fixed incomes need to help make Colorado winters more comfortable at home and in the pocket book.

LEAP is a program designed to help low-income households with their winter home heating costs. LEAP does not pay the entire cost of heating households through the winter, nor does it pay 100 percent of anyone's bills.

LEAP payments vary depending upon some of the following factors: income in relation to family size, estimated home heating costs and child care expenses. To qualify for the assistance, applicants must earn less than $1,030 per month for a one-person household and less than $2,088 per month for a four-person household. The percentage of assistance with heating bills participants receive has not been set for this winter. According to Clarise Corriveau, LEAP coordinator for Moffat County Department of Social Services, the percentages depend on the type of fuel the participants are using and the amount of funding the program receives.

LEAP benefits are paid directly to the utility company or fuel supplier. Greeley Gas company is one supplier that helps get the word out to its customers about the program by putting fliers in the bills it sends out. According to Jim Bartling, manager of public affairs for Greeley Gas Company, the company works hard to help notify people who need assistance about the program.

"We do not want to shut anyone's gas off, obviously, so we work hand-in-hand with the Moffat County Department of Social Services to make sure people who are qualified get the assistance they need," said Bartling.

Last year 324 Moffat County Residences applied for the LEAP assistance and 259 were approved. Applications for this year are available at the Moffat County Social Services Department, 559 Breeze St., or from most heating fuel vendors. The applications may take up to 50 days to be approved but according to Corriveau the wait can be well worth it.

"It has really helped low-income and fixed-income people and frees up money for them to use for food and medication," said Corriveau. "They don't have to pick between one or another."

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