Colorado to receive record amount of federal funding for home energy assistance – The Durango Herald

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US bailout more than doubles typical state allocation

Propane costs are expected to rise this winter, but more funds are being made available to help low-income households with heating assistance. (The Log file)

Federal funding for Colorado households needing heating assistance this winter has more than doubled as a result of the American Rescue Plan Act.

The Colorado Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, which is accepting applications until April 30, pays a portion of eligible households’ heating bills during the winter. This year, President Joe Biden’s U.S. bailout added $71.8 million to Colorado’s usual $53.8 million allocation for the program, bringing this season’s total LEAP funding to 125, $6 million.

“I am grateful that our state is receiving a record amount of funding to help Coloradans cover energy costs this cold winter,” Sen. Michael Bennett said in a news release. “No family should have to worry about how they are going to heat their home, especially during a pandemic.”

The additional funding comes amid higher fuel costs and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast of a slightly colder winter this year than last. Federal officials estimate that households will spend 54% more on propane, a fuel used by some rural households in southwestern Colorado; 30% more on natural gas; and 6% more on electric heating.

Theresa Kullen, LEAP lead in Colorado, said the extra funding means greater benefits for every household. The amount of energy aid distributed depends on several factors, including the primary heating costs of a given household.

“We’re a program that’s here to help people, and we strongly encourage everyone to apply even if they don’t think they’re eligible,” she said.

Coloradans can receive LEAP benefits if their income is less than 60% of the state’s median income, which for a family of four is $106,120. This means that an eligible four-person household must earn less than $5,306 per month.

Kullen said residents unsure of their eligibility should call the program’s hotline at (866) 432-8435. If a household is deemed eligible to receive LEAP assistance, the money is paid directly to the utility provider.

Since the program began accepting applications in November, 554 LEAP recipients in La Plata County have received benefits averaging $497. Kullen said the program does not provide data breakdowns for specific cities.

The additional funding provided by the federal government is expected to expand other LEAP services, such as the repair and replacement of furnaces and woodstoves, she said.

“If there are funds after the end of the heating season, we will consider providing assistance for the repair and replacement of air conditioning, which we have never had before,” she said. .

In a statement, the White House noted that this was the highest amount of energy assistance funding Colorado has received and encouraged utility companies to avoid cutting services to its customers during the winter. ‘winter.

Hillary Knox, spokesperson for the La Plata Electric Association, said when customers are in financial difficulty, they are referred to an assistance program, but the association does not refrain from cutting utilities.

“We have a (four) step disconnection process, which gives members sufficient time and notice to avoid any potential disconnection for non-payment,” Knox wrote in an email to The Herald of Durango. “These efforts combine to create a very low failure rate among our 45,000 accounts.”

She added that there are currently 72 accounts that owe the association a total of $3,413.

Atmos Energy, which supplies natural gas to the region, did not respond to a request for comment.

If residents are still unable to pay their heating bills after LEAP assistance, additional resources can be found through housing assistance programs, including Energy Outreach Colorado, Housing Solutions, and Southwest Colorado Disaster Assistance. .

Skye Witley, a senior at American University in Washington, DC, is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal at Cortez.

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