Additional LIHEAP Aid In Colorado
The Colorado Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, which will help pay the heating bills for low income families and people in need of help, received twice its normal budget allocation from the federal government this year. It received almost $65 million. This means the the LEAP assistance has an extra $25 million to spend this year, which should lead to bigger benefit checks and grants.
What this means is the the average Colorado LEAP family's heating bill during the six-month winter period is about $650,. If LEAP were to give out all the new federal money it has received, it could cover over 90 percent of the average heating bill, which is up from 50 percent just one year ago. This additional aid would be a shot in the arm for Colorado's economy as families would not need to spend as much money heating their homes.
Colorado typically receives about $30 million per year from the federal government for the LEAP program. When Congress approved the full funding and subsequent additional emergency funding in 2009, Congress anticipated correctly that more Colorado families would be out of work, in need of help, and applying for heating bill assistance. About 92,000 applied for help last year, while almost 105,000 have applied this year.
One of the benefits of the heating bill aid and paying a percentage of heating bills for the needy is that it relieves them of a debt heading into the balance of the year and the summer months, when electricity bills typically are lower. In recent years, those high winter bills would carry into the off-season, lower consumer spending, and continue to build up debt levels on utility customers, Jorgensen said. This should not happen this year, and should help stimulate the local economy.