Special to the Herald TimesRBC I Colorado’s Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP)has already helped thousands of hard-working families pay their heating bills this winter, but there are still Coloradans eligible for the program that have yet to apply. LEAP encourages those in need of home heating cost assistance to take advantage of the program and its newly increased benefit amount before the April 30, 2011 deadline.LEAP is a federally funded program that provides cash assistance to help families and individuals pay winter home heating costs. The program pays the highest benefits to those with the highest heating bills and lowest incomes by family size. Applicant income cannot exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty index, which equals a maximum income of $3,400 per month before taxes for a household of four people.As of Feb. 22 LEAP announced that the availability of additional federal funds would allow the state to increase LEAP’s average benefit by 35 percent. According to Todd Jorgensen, executive director of LEAP, the average payment will increase to $370 per family from $275. The new maximum payment will be $1,000 and the minimum payment will remain the same at $200.Thousands of additional Coloradans who are eligible for program benefits have yet to apply. “At the end of February, LEAP has helped more than 108,000 Colorado households pay their heating bills, as more than 80 percent of this year’s 134,098 program applicants have received benefits,” said Colorado LEAP director Todd Jorgensen. “Colorado is heading into its snowiest month, March, and we want the public to know that LEAP still has funds available and time left in the LEAP season for people to apply for the program.”LEAP eligible households may also qualify for the Crisis Invention Program [CIP] and the Governor’s Energy Office’s Weatherization Program. The CIP operates year-round and provides help with a home’s primary heating source such as a furnace or wood-burning stove. The Weatherization Program improves the energy efficiency in homes throughout Colorado, permanently reducing heating costs.To qualify for LEAP, applicants must be responsible for paying heating costs directly to an energy provider, fuel dealer or as part of rent; be a permanent legal resident of the United States and Colorado or have household members which are U.S. citizens.LEAP applicants must provide a copy of valid identification and a completed affidavit indicating that they are lawfully present in the United States with their program applications. Valid forms of identification include, but are not limited to:1. Colorado driver’s license or Colorado identification card; or2. United States military identification card or military dependent’s identification card; or3. United States Coast Guard Merchant Mariner card; or4. Native American Tribal document.As defined by the Colorado Department of Revenue, other forms of identification may be required as well. For more information on lawful presence requirements, contact the DOR or visit their website located at http://www.revenue.state.co.us/main/home.aspColoradans have until April 30 to apply for LEAP. Completed LEAP applications can be faxed, mailed or delivered to the appropriate county office. Potential program applicants can apply several ways:n Call 1-866-HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435) to have an application mailed to your home.n Visit any county department of social/human services across the state. To locate your county’s office, visit the program’s website at www. cdhs.state.co.us/leap/index.html.n Download and print an application from www.cdhs.state.co.us/leapTo find out if you qualify for LEAP, call toll-free 1-866-HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435) or visit www.cdhs.state.co.us/leap to view the most current program application requirements.