A statewide program that helps keep poor people warm will slash 17,000 from its assistance list after a funding cutback whacked more than a third of federal funds from the program.
That means that those folks, including 2,500 living in El Paso County, will have to choose between food and heat this winter, or between medical care and heat, clothing and heat, or gasoline for their vehicles and heat.
Here's the news release from the El Paso County Department of Human Services announcing the cuts:
Due to a 35% decrease in federal funding across the country the income guidelines for Low Income Energy Assistance (LEAP) have decreased to 150% of the federal poverty level from 185%. Previously a family of four making up to a gross monthly income of $3,445.63 could qualify for LEAP. Now a family of four must make less than $2,793.75 per month to qualify. This will mean approximately 17,000 fewer people in Colorado will qualify for the assistance and approximately 2,500 fewer people in El Paso County.
The Colorado Department of Human Services sent letters to those households that will not qualify for assistance this year. Applications were sent to households that received assistance last year and still qualify. In the 2008-2009 heating season 13,132 El Paso County households received help from the LEAP program. In the 2009-2010 heating season that number grew to 15,999 and in 2010-2011 15,268 households received LEAP funds in El Paso County.
The eligibility period for LEAP runs from November 1st through April 30th. LEAP benefits provide assistance to help low income families with their heating bills but are not intended to pay the entire bill. Families must meet certain income guidelines to qualify. LEAP is a mail-in only program and applications are accepted each year during the eligibility period.
For more information about LEAP benefits you can call 1-866 HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435).