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Fewer Households Will Get Help From LEAP

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4)- Winter will make its way into Colorado on Tuesday, when some parts of the region may see snow. The program that helps people heat their homes is short on funding.

Last year, LEAP, or Low Energy Assistance Program, helped more than 125,000 households with their heating bill. Because of the decrease in federal funding, that number will be much, much lower.

“It meant the difference between eating and taking care of my health and staying warm in my home,” said LEAP recipient Dorothea Yancy.

Yancy has received heating help from LEAP for the past eight years.

A cut in federal funding has forced the Department of Human Services to reduce the income criteria for LEAP from 185 percent to 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

That means the maximum income for a family of four may not exceed $2,794 per month to qualify for assistance.

The amount recipients will receive is also less, the average LEAP benefit is estimated to be $325 per household. In 2010, it was $373.

“We care so much about our families, especially the most vulnerable, so it was a very difficult decision,” said Division of Energy Assistance spokesman Todd Jorgensen.

Those who qualify can still apply for help starting Nov. 1, but 17,000 households that were eligible last year won’t be able to get assistance this year.

“They’re going to have to make those hard choices, some of them between buying food and paying the heat bill and buying prescription drugs that they need,” said Jorgensen.

Even though Yancy probably won’t be eligible for LEAP, she is confident everything will be okay.

“I put everything in God’s hands. If I’m not qualified, somehow the bills will get paid,” said Yancy.

Those who do not qualify for LEAP assistance this year can call the Heat Help Hotline 1-866-432-8435 for information about other programs.

LINK: Low Energy Assistance Program details from the Colorado Department of Human Services

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