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SMOC funds available for weatherization

WORTHINGTON -- Funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are making their way to southwest Minnesota and are now available to help some area residents weatherize their homes.

The Southwestern Minnesota Opportunity Council (SMOC) will receive about $1.6 million that can be used for weather stripping doors, insulating walls and attics, inspecting furnaces for safety and efficiency, and installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

"It does not replace doors and windows; people are very misinformed about that," explained Lori Mejia, the housing coordinator at SMOC. She said minor repairs, such as fixing a broken pane of glass, would be available.

"We have auditors that inspect the home and write up a list of what needs to be done," said SMOC Community Development Director Doug Mead, explaining that the money should allow for the weatherization of about 300 homes -- and more than 100 families have already shown interest. "Just because they are eligible doesn't mean we'll get to their home," he added.

Those eligible for the program must be residents of Nobles, Rock, Pipestone or Murray counties and be at 200 percent or less of the poverty level. For a typical family of four, total income would need to be $44,100 or less per year. Priority is given to the elderly, disabled, homes with children or homes with high energy use.

The program is available in addition to an existing program that helps families make their homes more energy efficient. With the additional money, "We'll get to more homes, but it's a small program," Mejia said, urging patience for those interested. The project "takes time" added Mead.

Those interested in the weatherization program may call SMOC at (507) 376-4195 and ask for an energy assistance application and more details.