Jonesboro/Augusta, AR (KAIT) - The Crowley's Ridge Development Council said Monday 550 homes have been approved for improvements under the Weatherization Program. Since April, CRDC has seen an increase in the number of people applying for financial assistance for insulation and energy conservation services, according to Kenny Gunn, Director of Weatherization.
"This is the first time we've seen this kind of money being put into a program, especially the Weatherization Program. In the past, we were limited on our funds, but now, as of April 1st, 2009, we can spend 6,500 dollars per unit," said Gunn.
Gunn said CRDC has been given enough money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to make energy-saving improvements to 654 homes. CRDC can also renovate 128 homes with money from the Department of Energy.
"It doesn't matter if they own the home or they rent the home," said Gunn. "It's just an overall energy savings program that once we leave that house, they should notice a significant reduction in their utility bills."
The Weatherization Program has been in place since 1975, helping low-income families weatherize their home by installing double-paned windows, new doors and insulating side-walls and roofing. The program can also help pay for new heating and air units.
"It's not a repair program. It's an energy savings program. Everything has to be justified. We can't change out windows if they already have double insulated windows. We can't change their heat and air system if it just needs to be fixed," said Gunn.
Region 8 News caught up with one family whose home was being worked on in Augusta. The home is getting 10 new, double-paned windows, a new front and side door, weather-stripping, a heating and air unit and insulation in the attic.
"I had my windows replaced. They're going to replace my doors, do some insulation work, heating and air," said James Fortune.
Fortune has been living in Augusta for six years. He said his home has always been high on utility bills.
"During the winter, the gas bill just keeps getting higher and higher. I know energy is always going up too," said Fortune. "I heard that there was stimulus money to help low-income families out to weatherize their house to help lower their energy bills."
Fortune said he's trying to feed a family of five on less than $30,000/year. Doing so, he said, leaves him with little money for home improvements.
"Cost of living, my youngest is still in diapers, making sure you buy diapers every week. Keep them clothes and food," said Fortune. "I hope it lowers my energy bills. All my bills would go down, helping me save some money."
Click here for more information on the Weatherization Program.
"As long as you meet the income guidelines, you can rent or own. A renter will have to get a rental agreement signed by their landlord, and as long as we get that rental agreement in with their application and they meet the income guidelines, they qualify," said Gunn. "Once we've completed the work, we're going to stand behind the work for a year. What takes place after that is basically up to the individual."
Monday, workers were installing new windows and doors at Fortune's home. Later this week, heating and air will be installed before insulation is put in place.
"It'll take us probably 2 days, windows and doors, then the heat and air men have to come out, do the heat and air and then we have an insulation crew that'll come behind us," said Mitchell Griggs, CRDC worker.
Griggs said he's worked for CRDC since 2005. Some of the homes he's worked in needed the help desperately.
"This house is in good shape compared to some we go to. We go to some houses that really need it," said Griggs. "There's this one lady in Wynne. She praises me every time I see her. You know, 'oh, I just love you guys'. She'll hug our necks and that's what makes this job worthwhile. You know, just changing people's lives. Giving people something worthwhile to live in."