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The Energy Resource Center’s Pay-It-Forward Program allows them to bid non-eligible contracts for furnace replacements.

The Low-income Energy Assistance Program, aka LEAP, helps pay home heating costs to those who qualify during cold Colorado months.

Eligible recipients receive a portion of their heating bill based on a sliding scale that factors in household size and income.

The program launched Nov. 1 and runs through April 30.

LEAP is a federally funded program through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Assistance can be provided to those with a median state income level of 60%. According to the Colorado Department of Human Services, a family of four could qualify if their monthly maximum gross income is $4,561.

Kristina Iodice, public information officer for El Paso County Human Services, said the county works hard to communicate about the program and sends paper applications to previous recipient’s mailboxes.

According to the Colorado Department of Human Services website, colorado.gov, 4,126 applications have been received for El Paso County residents to date, receiving an average benefit of $338.

The county facilitates the application process but the state is responsible for qualifying applicants. “LEAP works just like any other service we provide, paying only a portion of the heating bills for participants,” said Iodice.

Anyone can call HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435) to see if they qualify.

Haley Chapin, executive director of Tri-Lakes Cares said because northern El Paso County has a higher median income level, the state guideline is not reflective of the local community.

Tri-Lakes Cares considers 50% of the area to earn median income which is a maximum of $68,496 for a family of four.

So, while there may be some residents who are not eligible for LEAP support, residents can still seek assistance from Tri-Lakes Cares in any of their other many financial assistance programs.

Tri-Lakes Cares will work with anyone to apply for any assistance needed. “Since LEAP only covers heating costs, we help clients apply for other services including food, medical and educational assistance,” Chapin said.

To see if you might be eligible for support from Tri-Lakes Cares, for last names starting with A-L, contact Rachael Collins at 719-481-4864, ext. 102, or casemanager@tri-lakescares.org. If your last name starts with M-Z, contact Paula Blair at 719-481-4864, ext. 112 or casemanager2@tri-lakescares.org.

Up to 15% of the allotted LEAP payment may go toward weatherization upgrades to the home, including improving attic, floor and wall insulation, repairing or replacing a furnace, and adding storm windows or doors. The intention is to reduce overall energy use in the home.

If someone qualifies for LEAP, they are automatically qualified for energy efficiency services.

Mike Mazzola, development director for the Energy Resource Center said, “our mission to serve families in need.” The nonprofit is a “tools and trucks construction company” covering 27 Colorado counties including El Paso.

Participation in other government programs can also qualify applicants for LEAP and associated weatherization services. Those who currently receive Medicare, Supplemental Security Income, Colorado Works/TANF, Food Stamps, Old Age Pension, and Aid to Needy Disabled/Aid to the Blind can apply for energy assistance.

The Resources Center’s work can save recipients 25% on average of their utility bills, Mazzola said.

Thirty employees work year-round at the Colorado Springs location to weatherize about 2,000 homes annually.

State inspectors audit their work as well as their record-keeping and budget.

“We want people to know that help is available,” Mazzola said. In addition to weatherizing the home his team checks for leaky gas lines, and faulty carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. To see if you qualify call the center at 719-591-0772.

Funding for this service comes from governmental entities as well as donations. Mazzola said the ERC’s Pay-It-Forward Program allows the center to bid non-eligible contracts for furnace replacements.

If they win the bid, all proceeds go right back to the center.

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