157 residents were going to receive weatherization assistance from the Anoka County Community Action Program. Now, thanks to $1.6 million in federal stimulus money, the program will be available to nearly 300 more. Additionally, workers will be able to look more closely at more clients' energy use than they've been able to in the past. This will enable them to find more solutions to bring a home's utility costs down.
Anoka County's allocation is part of $131 million in stimulus weatherization aid being distributed throughout the state. The federal money allows ACCAP to triple its client load and raises the average allocation per home from $3,000 to $6,500.
The program is available to county residents who qualify for federal home heating aid. The cutoff is about 200% of federal poverty guidelines, or $44,100 a year for a family of four. Those with the highest energy consumption generally get first priority because unusually high energy bills signal that something in the home is malfunctioning. After that, seniors have priority, then disabled residents.
"Before they have the work they're turning to us saying they don't know where else to turn," said Donna Mattson, ACCAP's housing services director. "They're having trouble with their bills; this allows them to put more money toward other bills. Their furnace is dying or has gone, and they're just in a panic."
Sometimes, workers are able to solve problems that had caused a real hazard. In one mobile home, the furnace had been out for a year, but the client had sky-high gas bills because she was paying to run a leaking hot-water heater. She also had been heating the entire place using space heaters.
ACCAP has added 16 full-time auditor and staff positions, and 15 part-time contractor positions to accommodate the extra money and work. The ACCAP's goal is to weatherize 450 qualifying families' homes by next fall.