Program starts for heat bill help

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Members of low-income households who need help paying heating bills through the winter have a place to turn for assistance.

The statewide Low Income Energy Assistance Program, also called LEAP, is designed to help low-income households meet heating costs. LEAP began taking applications Monday.

Last year, 216 low-income and elderly households in Routt County received LEAP help for a total of $79,900 in assistance, said Ruth Ann Mewborn, eligibility technician for Routt County Department of Human Services.

Qualifying residents can receive funds to cover part or all of their heating bills.

To qualify, household income may not exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, Mewborn said. The maximum monthly income for a one-person household is $1,384, and the maximum monthly income for a four-person household is $2,837.

To apply, people can fill out applications at the county department of Human Services. The process requires a copy of the applicant's most recent heating bill and proof of income.

Once approved, residents receive assistance based on the number of people in their household, what their income is and what their heating bills from the previous year were. Payments come within two months.

Applications are accepted through April 30. Several households applied Monday.

"It's designed to help the low income and senior population," Mewborn said. "It is a big help. In some instances, it will pay their heating expenses entirely.

"I certainly do encourage people to apply for LEAP, if they can fit into the monthly income amount. It'll make a big difference."

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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