Energy assistance, weatherization funds still availableWORTHINGTON — After “weathering” some hard knocks from Old Man Winter and the economy, area folks are increasingly turning to weatherization and energy assistance programs offered by Southwestern Minnesota Opportunity Council Inc.
By: Laura Grevas, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — After “weathering” some hard knocks from Old Man Winter and the economy, area folks are increasingly turning to weatherization and energy assistance programs offered by Southwestern Minnesota Opportunity Council Inc.
Doug Mead, the community development department head at SMOC, said the organization already has received 2,071 applications for energy assistance since Oct. 1, 2009. The total number of applications received during the eight-month application period is usually between 2,200 and 2,500.
“The applications for energy assistance are one to two months ahead,” he said. “There are more than in the past several years.”
Typically, Mead explained, residents of Nobles, Rock, Murray and Pipestone counties who qualify for energy assistance are also offered the weatherization program.
Energy assistance is a program to help low-income homeowners and renters pay for winter heating bills and furnace repair and replacement. Maximum income is set at 50 percent of the state median. For example, a four-person household with a three-month income of $10,430 or less would be eligible. The application deadline is May 31.
So far, 1,815 homes in the four-county area have received energy assistance worth about $1.2 million.
“The applications are real simple,” Mead said.
A segment of the population, especially senior citizens, is reluctant to apply “because they want to get by on their own,” he explained. “But it does help free up funds for food, medicine.”
He said the turnaround time for eligible applicants who provide all the information required is almost immediate.
The home weatherization program provides no-cost insulation of attics and walls; weather stripping and caulking of windows, doors and wall cracks; and furnace inspections and improvements. Applications are available year round; and people living below 200 percent of the property line are eligible.
SMOC will receive a total of $1.6 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment (stimulus) funds for its weatherization program beginning last summer. Instead of serving its current average of 28 homes per year; SMOC should now be able to weatherize nearly 280 homes during the three years it receives stimulus funds.
For more information about either program, contact SMOC at 376-4195; or toll-free at 1-800-658-2444.