With the costs of goods and services steadily rising, a federally funded program that helps seniors, families and other individuals pay home heating costs has seen a record number of Coloradans apply for assistance in the waning months of 2022. Theresa Kullen is manager of Colorado’s Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP). She reported that in the period between November 1 and Christmas, some 70,000 Coloradans applied for help, representing a nearly 8% increase over the previous year. Similarly, a spokesman for the United Way hotline in the Pikes Peak area said such calls for help are noticeably up, a circumstance echoed by a Pikes Peak area nonprofit known as Westside Cares that helps needy citizens with utilities bills.
On a statewide basis, LEAP is one of the primary go-to resources for seeking help with utility bills. It is administered by the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) (https://cdhs.colorado.gov/leap.) As the website description says, LEAP “works to keep our communities warm during the winter (November through April) by providing assistance with heating costs, equipment repair and/or replacement of inoperable heating tools.” While the program is not intended to pay the entire cost of home heating, it aims to help alleviate some of the financial burden that comes with colder months.
In most cases, the energy assistance benefit is paid directly to the utility supplying the heat, with a notice sent to the LEAP beneficiary informing them of the benefit amount. Kullen says the average LEAP benefit this season has been $440. Other benefits provided by LEAP include repair or replacement of a home’s primary heating system, such as a furnace or wood-burning stove. The program does not provide financial assistance for any type of temporary or portable heating.
LEAP eligibility in Colorado
You may qualify for heating assistance through LEAP if your income is not more than 60% of the state median income level, as reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services prior to the winter season. The amount of the energy assistance benefit varies depending on a variety of factors, including the primary heating fuel costs and household income.
You may qualify for LEAP benefits if you:
- Pay home heating costs, either directly to a utility company or to a landlord as part of rent.
- Earn a maximum family household income that does not exceed 60% of the state median income level.
- Provide proof of lawful presence in the U.S., for you and household members born outside of the U.S. Acceptable forms of identification for non-traditional residency status include naturalization and born abroad certificates, U.S. passports, permanent resident cards, or documentation of refugee or asylee status.
The table below shows the maximum income allowed to qualify for LEAP benefits, based on household size. Household refers to all people living with you and for whom you are financially responsible. The income figures are for the 2022-2023 season that began November 1, 2022.
|Household Size||Maximum Gross Monthly Income|
|Each Additional Person||$166|
How to apply
LEAP accepts applications between November and April. If you’re looking for assistance outside of LEAP season, it may be available. Call 1-866-HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435) for more information.
Otherwise, to apply for LEAP, you can submit an application several ways:
- Apply online on the Colorado PEAK website
- Download an application (English and Spanish links below) and drop it off at your local human services office, or mail/email it to your county/contractor to process. For contact information, call 1-866-HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435). You can also find your county’s mailing address in this contact list.
- To request a paper application mailed to you address call 1-866-HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435)
- If you are having a heating emergency, call 1-866-HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435) to apply over the phone.
CDHS points out that application processing is delayed if applications are not complete. The agency offers the checklist below to help you ensure your application has all necessary information. Have you:
- Answered all the questions in each section of the application?
- Enclosed a readable copy of lawful presence documentation for yourself and your household members born outside of the U.S.?
- Provided Social Security numbers and birth dates for all members of your household?
- Included proof of all monthly household income (pay stubs, award letters, loans, etc.)?
- Attached receipts for all expenses claimed on your profit and loss statement for self-employment income?
- Included a copy of your most recent heating bill? (If you pay your heat as part of your rent, include a copy of your most recent rent receipt.)
- Signed your application?
- Double-checked that you’re submitting your application to the correct county LEAP office?
- If your county LEAP office can accept email, have you scanned your application and all required paperwork and attached the files to the email?
Answers to some commonly asked questions about the Colorado LEAP Program
How long does it take to process my application?
Most non-emergency applications are processed within 10-25 days. Remember that incomplete applications will delay processing. If your heat is about to be shut off and you qualify for help, LEAP may be able to expedite your application in just 10 days. Call 1-866-HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435) to learn more. Call these same numbers to check on the status of your application.
Can I stop paying my heat bill while my application is being processed?
No. Continue to pay your bills while waiting for a decision on your application. If your bills are overdue or you are in danger of running out of fuel, contact your heat or utility company to set up a payment agreement or budget billing, if available.
I need to purchase a portable heater. Can LEAP help me with that?
No. The LEAP program does not provide financial assistance for any type of temporary or portable heating source.
How often can I receive heat assistance through LEAP?
You can receive heat assistance only once each season through LEAP. The season runs from Nov.1 to April 30.
How is the LEAP assistance amount calculated?
The assistance benefit varies depending on a variety of factors, including the primary heating costs of your home, total household income, the amount of the LEAP Program funding, and applications received.
Is the LEAP assistance amount sent directly to me?
In most cases, the payment is sent directly to your primary heating fuel company. You will receive a letter indicating your LEAP assistance amount and where your benefit is being sent.
Can I apply for LEAP even if I participate in other government programs?
Yes. Your participation in other programs, including Medicare, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Colorado Works/TANF, food stamps, Old Age Pension (OAP), and Aid to Needy Disabled (AND)/Aid to the Blind (AB), will not be impacted in any way if you participate in LEAP.
Can I apply for LEAP if I do not live in the home?
No. You must reside in the dwelling stated on your application.
Can I get assistance if my primary heating system is not working?
Yes. If you qualify for LEAP, you may also qualify for our heating system repair/replacement program. In this case, call FOR MY HEAT (1-855-469-4328) for additional information.
If I qualify for LEAP but still need assistance with my utilities, are there any other programs available to help my family?
Yes. Call HEAT HELP (1-866-432-8435) to learn what other utility payment assistance is available to you. For example, if you are eligible for LEAP, you may also qualify for these other benefits:
- The Crisis Intervention Program operates year-round and provides assistance with the repair or replacement of the home’s primary heating system such as a furnace or wood-burning stove.
- The Weatherization Program is offered through the Governor’s Energy Office and is designed to improve the energy efficiency in homes throughout Colorado, helping to permanently reduce heating costs.
- Colorado also offers a rebate of property tax, rent and heat expenses to low-income seniors and disabled persons. Known as the Property Tax/Rent/Heat Credit (PTC) rebate, the maximum property tax rebate is $660 and the maximum heat expenses rebate is $192. The Colorado Department of Revenue administers the rebate.
What if I do NOT qualify for LEAP?
Call HEAT HELP (1-866-432-8435) to learn what alternate assistance might be available to you. For example, you may still qualify for heating assistance through energy outreach, which is designed to “support, stabilize,and sustain vulnerable households statewide” by providing home energy assistance.