Steamboat Springs The Colorado Energy Assistance Foundation has distributed thousands of dollars to LIFT-UP of Routt County, the Independent Life Center of Craig and the Community Budget Center to aid families that require assistance paying energy bills, but it still isn't enough to cover requests.
The foundation gave $7,325 to five organizations in northwest Colorado this week. CEAF Deputy Director Jennifer Gremmert said that energy rates soon will be on the rise.
"We are expecting a significant increase in the next couple of months," she said.
Gremmert said Routt County families will be able to apply for aid at LIFT-UP. LIFT-UP has offices in Steamboat Springs, Oak Creek and Hayden.
Gremmert said that CEAF is the only organization that distributes money for this purpose during the summer season. Needy families can apply for federal money from county offices during the winter season.
LIFT-UP executive director David Freseman said that the summer season doesn't necessarily bring a slowing in energy assistance requests.
"We end up with a lot of clients who are trying to catch up on past-due payments," he said.
LIFT-UP receives a staggering amount of assistance requests, Freseman said.
"The amount we receive from the CEAF does not cover our requests," he said. "Just about all of our resources get tapped for energy assistance."
Nevertheless, Freseman said that the CEAF grant is still incredibly helpful.
"I don't know where we'd be without it," he said.
One of the main reasons that energy costs are increasing is the switch to natural gas firing. An increasing number of power plants are replacing coal, Gremmert said. But natural gas is a valuable commodity, and the supply in storage is currently low.
"It's something that you'll be hearing about more and more," she said.
CEAF distributes nearly $1.5 million statewide per year to assist families with energy costs. Gremmert said CEAF receives the money from donations.
Some utility companies accept donations from their customers, and then match the total for a donation to CEAF.
Gremmert said families can call the CEAF toll-free hotline at 1-866-HEAT-HELP if they would like to make a donation, or if they need help.
Freseman said many people do not realize the overwhelming number of families who need energy assistance.
"Twenty-two percent of Colorado households are low income and qualify for energy assistance," Freseman said. "Nearly half of those live at or below poverty level. These are the kinds of things people just don't realize," he said.
More than 100,000 families in Colorado requested assistance with energy costs in 2002. That is a record total of requests for the state.