Help to pay bills heats up |

Help to pay bills heats up

Melinda Dudley

To apply for LEAP

Applications for the federal Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, or LEAP, are available at the Routt County Department of Human Services Office, 136 Sixth St. in Steamboat Springs, or online at County employee Clarise Corriveau warned that applications can take as many as 50 days to process.

"Be patient. I know it's very frustrating for people right now," Corriveau said.

— As winter sets in, dipping temperatures are creating higher utility bills and pushing some low-income residents to reach out for help with heating costs.

Funds to assist with winter heating bills are available through the federally funded Low-Income Energy Assistance Program which currently is accepting applications for the 2008-09 winter.

Routt County received about 130 LEAP applications in November, said Clarise Corriveau, who processes the applications for the Routt County Department of Human Services.

“I think it’s probably more than in years past,” Corriveau said, noting that it is her first year handling Routt County’s applications.

LEAP is designed to pay a portion of heating costs for low-income residents between Nov. 1 and April 30. Just how much it covers depends on the applicant’s income level and prior year’s usage, Corriveau said.

Applicants for LEAP must be citizens or lawful permanent residents and meet income restrictions based on household size. A family of four must have a gross income of less than $3,269 a month to qualify; a household of one can make as much as $1,604 a month, Corriveau said.

LEAP assistance is not available for residents of hotels and motels, Corriveau said.

“You have to either pay your heat or have it included in your rent and be responsible for it,” Corriveau said. “Because if the heat rates go sky-high, your rent could go up.”

Because LEAP helps pay only for primary heat sources, the Department of Human Services often has to redirect people who need help with other utility bills.

“Many people’s main heat source is natural gas, but they still need electric to run their heater,” Corriveau said.

LIFT-UP of Routt County has not seen more requests for heat assistance than usual, which Executive Director David Freseman attributed to LEAP funds kicking in for the season last month.

LIFT-UP is, however, being “bombarded” with requests for rent assistance and help with electric bills and other supplemental utilities, Freseman said.

Its food bank also has been setting new demand records, Freseman said. Fortunately, charity related to the holiday season sufficiently has filled LIFT-UP’s pantry.

“The community at this moment is really stepping up and meeting those needs,” Freseman said. “But that might not be the case after the holiday.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.