LEAP-ing heat bills

Government program aids low-income households with energy costs

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With the winter shaping up to be long and cold, one government office is gearing up to help low-income Craig families pay their heat bills.

Ninety-one people have filed for assistance through the low-income energy assistance program, or LEAP, at the Moffat County Department of Social Services, 595 Breeze St.

The program runs Nov. 1 to April 30.

Colorado residents qualify by meeting income guidelines.

"The payments are not intended to cover the entire cost, but just to assist with the heating bills," said Laura Willems, self-sufficiency manager for social services. "We still expect people to keep in good status with their energy vendor."

The application process takes time, so energy bills must continue to be paid by the applicant until the assistance check arrives.

Assistance is only provided one-time each winter.

Many applications that are accepted result in two payments being sent directly to the energy provider, such as the gas company.

Payments are received by the homeowner to help cover costs of the electric bills in homes heated by electricity.

Willems said applicants need to be aware of new requirements this year when filling out the application.

"New identification and residency requirements are slowing the process this year," she said. "Nearly 70 percent of the applications we have received didn't have the required citizenship affidavit completed."

Willems said people filling out the application late in the winter should still apply.

Applications sent in by the April 30 deadline will be processed, and those qualifying can carry credit with the energy company into the next cold season.

Participation in other government programs will not be affected by applying for LEAP benefits.

Last year, 459 Moffat County residents received LEAP assistance with their energy bills.

For an application, visit social services or call, toll free, (866) 432-8435 to have an application mailed to your home.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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