COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

Due to a 35 percent decrease in federal funding across the country the income guidelines for Low-income Energy Assistance decreased.

This means that before the change, a family of four making up to a gross monthly income of $3,445.63 could qualify for LEAP. Now, a family of four must make less than $2,793.75 per month to qualify.

This means approximately 17,000 fewer people in Colorado will qualify for the assistance. Some 2,500 of those people are in El Paso County.

On Friday, the Colorado Department of Human Services sent letters to those households that will not qualify for assistance this year. Applications were sent to households that received assistance last year and still qualify.

According to LEAP, in the 2008-2009 heating season, 13,132 El Paso County households received help from the program. In the 2009-2010 heating season, that number rose to 15,999 and in 2010-2011, 15,268 households received LEAP funds in El Paso County.

The eligibility period for LEAP runs from Nov. 1 through April 30.

LEAP benefits provide assistance to help low-income families with their heating bills but are not intended to pay the entire bill.

The manager of the El Paso County LEAP, Melinda Bennett, said that the organization will continue to look for other groups that can help families that no longer qualify for LEAP.