With temperatures dipping into the single digits (and in some places even lower) in Colorado for the first time this winter, home heating has once again become a major issue for millions of low-income residents across the state.
As many as one in five Colorado residents, including thousands in the Denver area. are facing difficulty in paying their home heating bills. But the combined efforts a statewide non-profit agency and the City of Denver hopes to address the heating needs of many of those residents.
Energy Outreach Colorado has begun to ramp up its efforts to raise funds to assist low-income residents in the city and state in meeting their energy needs and this week it will receive a big boost from the Denver City Council to meet that goal.
On Thursday, the City Council will vote on whether to approve an $800,000 contract that will allow Energy Outreach Colorado to conduct energy audits and energy upgrades to non-profit facilities in the city that serve local residents.
The contract, which runs through 2012, is also comprised of funds from the Xcel Energy Franchise Agreement between the energy company and the city. It calls for Energy Outreach Colorado to conduct at least 14 energy audits and 14 energy upgrades for other non-profit agencies in the area that also assist those with energy needs with help from Energy Outreach Colorado.
The audits and energy upgrades will enable Energy Outreach Colorado to help the facilities practice what they preach and improve the energy efficiency at their offices. The actions will also allow Energy Outreach Colorado to conduct educational workshops for the facilities’ staff and the people they serve.
The city will track the savings made by the energy improvements, according to the contract. By increasing their energy efficiency, the city states, the non-profit organizations may be able to increase the number of low-income residents they serve.
For Energy Outreach Colorado, the contract with the city represents a way for the agency to offset possible changes in how energy assistance will be administered. According to Skip Arnold, executive director of Energy Outreach Colorado, the state’s Colorado Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) is in danger of having its federal funding reduced and the income level to qualify for energy assistance funding has been reduced.
“Too many seniors on fixed incomes and families with children must seriously weigh such dismal choices as keeping the heat on or doing without food or medical care, even as they struggle to stay warm and safe during the cold winter months,” said Arnold.
The executive director said Energy Outreach Colorado is ready to step in and fill the gap in energy assistance. Arnold said the agency expects to distribute approximately $6.7 million in energy assistance grants to more than 130 community organizations that assist low-income residents, including Seniors Resources Center, Salvation Army and Home Front Cares.
Since it was begin in 1989, Energy Outreach Colorado has raised more than $153 million to assist Colorado residents in paying their energy bills and make upgrades to the energy efficiency of their residences.
In addition to donations from local corporations, Energy Outreach Colorado gets contributions from average citizens including donations made at its website.