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Feb 9, 2011 1:57 PM by Andy Koen

Bracing for high heating bills

All the cold weather we've had over the last few weeks could leave you with sticker shock when the utility bill comes in the mail. Last Tuesday alone, Colorado Springs Utilities customers set a record for natural gas consumption of nearly 2 and a half times a typical winter day's use.

CSU spokesman Dave Grossman says all that extra energy use comes at a cost. "We recommend customers sign up for budget billing, especially customers who are on a fixed income," Grossman said.

Budget billing averages utility costs over the course of a year. Normally high winter bills are lowered. Meanwhile, cheaper summer bills cost a little more. Click here to read more about it.

For some families, the dollars a so tight that it comes down to paying the heating bill or buying groceries. That's where LEAP comes in. The Low-income Energy Assistance Program is a federally funded welfare program for heating bills.

The program is administered locally by Goodwill Industries. Spokeswoman Laura Marth says individuals are eligible for assistance if they make less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

"The average (time) right now for receiving assistance is about 30 days, so we encourage people to sign up as soon as possible," Marth said.

Applicants must be a legal US citizen, a Colorado resident and must pay monthly utilities either directly or via rent payments. Use the following table to determine income requirements.

Household Size Maximum Gross Monthly Income
1 $1,670
2 $2,246
3 $2,823
4 $3,400
5 $3,976
6 $4,553
7 $5,129
8 $5,706
Each additional person $577

Applications are being accepted through April 30, 2010.

For Colorado Springs Utilities customers specifically, there's another safety net called Project COPE. It provide one-time energy bill assistance for people who have already applied for LEAP and have received a disconnection notice.

"If for some reason you don't qualify for LEAP or it doesn't apply for what ever reason, Project Cope can help," Grossman said.

Call Colorado Springs Utilities at 719-448-4800 or the United Way at 211 to apply.

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