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Home weatherization program thrives thanks to Indiantown-based agency

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Successful implementation of a free weatherization assistance program that benefits eligible homeowners in six counties has not only resulted in securing more than double the federal funding for one local agency, but the creation of 44 jobs.

Donna Carman, executive director of the Indiantown Non-Profit Housing, Inc., which administers the Weatherization Assistance Program, said, "To me, assisting your clients and being able to put all those folks to work is amazing."

Weatherization for low-income homeowners is important because increasing the energy efficiency of their homes permanently reduces their energy bills, freeing up money that can be dedicated to covering other household expenses.

The 44 additional workers — including installation crew members, inspectors and client intake personnel — have allowed the agency to assist more clients more quickly.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy through the Florida Department of Community Affairs and is administered in Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Palm Beach, Broward and Okeechobee counties.

The agency's funding has been progressively increased since 2004 because of its high productivity rate and the addition of counties over time. The group originally was awarded $5 million, which doubled, and then it received additional money when it began serving Broward and Okeechobee counties, bringing available funding to more than $14 million.

In the last 14 months, the organization has served 1,063 homes, or approximately 50 clients per week, Carman said. Some counties with fewer resources are only able to do 20 homes per month.

Indiantown Non-Profit Housing, Inc. still has almost $9 million to spend before March 2012.

"We have the ability to serve another 1,300 homeowners," Carman said. "The amazing thing is we have up to $6,500 per home to spend."

Those who qualify for the program have their homes inspected to determine areas in which energy efficiency can be improved. The agency can provide home sealing, insulation, solar window screens, smart thermostats and compact fluorescent bulbs. Inefficient refrigerators and heating and cooling systems can also be addressed through repairs, upgrades or replacement.

Alice Gaskins, a homeowner in Indiantown, has benefited from the weatherization program.

"Without them, I could not have made it," she said. "They really worked with me, and they helped me a lot."

Modifications made to enhance the energy efficiency of her home, built in 1957, included attic insulation, solar window screens, new doors and weatherstripping and a new heating and cooling system.

The agency is processing about 100 assistance applications daily. For those who qualify, it takes about 30 days from receipt of the homeowner's application for the work to be completed and inspected.

Carman encourages qualifying homeowners to apply for assistance as soon as possible before the March 2012 deadline.

"We want to identify as many homeowners as we can, get them qualified and on the list," she said.To qualify for the program:

You must own and occupy the home to receive repairs.

Income eligibility requirements must be met, ranging from an income of $21,780 for a single resident home to $59,980 for a household of six.

Priority will be given to single-family detached homes, elderly (age 60-plus) or physically disabled homeowners, families with children under age 12 and households with repeatedly high utility bills.

Improvements are prioritized from addressing air sealing and general heating/cooling waste issues up to addressing inefficient heating and cooling systems.

For more information or to request an application, call 772-597-3667 or 877-212-0309. Additional information and applications can also be found at www.inphi.org.

Kim Hughes
TC Palm.com



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