The Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) helps low-income households with winter heating costs from November 1, 2005 to April 30, 2006.
LEAP pays a portion of the home heating costs, but is not intended to pay the entire costs of home heating.
To be eligible for LEAP, an individual must pay home heating costs to a utility company, fuel dealer or as part of the rent. If the individual is living in non-subsidized housing and is paying home heating costs either in the form of rent or as a separate charge in addition to rent, the individual may be eligible for LEAP.
Individuals who live in subsidized housing are eligible for LEAP, if the unit has a separate meter for fuel charges or if individuals are billed a heating surcharge for fuel. The household income for eligible persons must be less than $1,475 for a single person and $1,978 for a couple. There is no asset test.
Individuals who received LEAP in 2004-05 and those on Old Age Pension, Supplemental Security Income, Aid to the Needy Disabled and/or Aid to the Blind, will automatically receive an application during October, 2005. Copies can also be downloaded at www.ceaf.org after November 1, 2005.
Individuals can apply for LEAP assistance at the county department of human/social services. Individuals must provide proof of income from all sources unless they receive Old Age Pension, Aid to the Needy Disabled/Aid to the Blind and/or Supplemental Security Income. In addition, individuals must provide a copy of the most recent heating bill showing the company name, address, and account numbers, or a copy of the most recent rent receipt, if heating costs are included in the rent.
LEAP payments are made directly to the utility provider in most cases, rather than to the individual.
If individuals have a shutoff notice or if the heating service has been disconnected, the individual should immediately contact the county department of human/social services. Generally if the utility company is aware that an application for LEAP is being processed, the utility company will not disconnect the service.
The Public Utilities Commission has set guidelines, called Rule 13, which must be followed by regulated utility companies when attempting to shut off utilities. Under the Rule 13, the utility must give the customer ten days advance notice of its intent to shut-off the utilities. The utilities may not be shut-off for sixty days if the customer has medical proof that a shut-off would be harmful. The medical certification may be used only once a year.
In addition, the utility company must accept payments from the customer to avoid utility shut-offs. The utility customer is entitled to a hearing before utilities are shut-off.
Individuals may also be eligible for budget billing to help with bills that are past due. They may be added to the budget billing arrangement and spread in equal payments over a period of up to six months.
Funding for the LEAP program is made possible through grants from the federal government, as well as several new opportunities through the State of Colorado. During the 2004-05 season, the legislature and the Governor made available approximately $10,000,000 increasing the average grant by about $100. Similar support may be available during 2005-06.
During the 2005 session of the legislature, Senator Paula Sandoval, D-Denver, and Rep Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, carried a bill which was signed by Governor Bill Owens to allow individual homeowners to make individual monthly contributions to Energy Outreach Colorado to help low income persons with utility bills. Colorado is the only state in the country to enact public policy creating an optional energy assistance program to help the poor pay energy bills.
For assistance prior to November 1 with energy bills, call the Charitable Energy Network at 1-866-432-8435 or find an agency that may be able to help at http://www.energyoutreach.org/locator.asp. For copies of the LEAP forms or assistance with applying for LEAP, call 1-866-432-8435 or (303)-333-3482.
Eileen Doherty, M.S. is the Executive Director of Senior Answers and Services and the Colorado Gerontological Society. She has 30 years of experience in gerontology in administration, research, training and education, and clinical practice. She can be reached at 303-333-3482 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.