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Federal funds boost weatherization program

ELIZABETHTOWN - A greater number of homeowners in Essex County will get help buttoning up their homes this winter thanks to funds from the federal stimulus package.

More than $5 billion has been set aside as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for use in supplementing weatherization assistance programs across the country.

Adirondack Community Action Programs administers the program in Essex County, which has helped to make nearly 60 homes each year more suited for cold weather.

According to Barb Allen, Weatherization Assistance Program coordinator at ACAP, New York State is among those receiving the largest slice of federal funds with a grant of roughly $395 million.

Meanwhile, state funding for the program has remained steady at $99 million statewide. The funds are divided to each county based on population and number of seasonal heating days.

"So for Essex County, what that means is we're going to be doubling our production schedule," said Allen.

ACAP's Weatherization Assistance Program will now be able to assist roughly 140 homes annually, and to a greater degree.

Those who qualify for the program can receive a diagnostic weatherization assessment to find potential air leaks and other shortfalls in energy efficiency.

Once the problem areas are identified, ACAP arranges for installation of insulation, maintenance for heating systems, weather stripping, repair of windows, and other minor fixes. The program may also provide carbon monoxide detectors and, in some cases, the replacement of old refrigerators with newer, more energy-efficient ones.

A post-weatherization inspection is performed after the work is finished to assure that improvements are effective.

Previously, no more than $4,500 could be allotted to improve each home. With the added stimulus funds, the limit has jumped to $6,500.

"It's all about serving those in need," said ACAP executive director Alan Jones, who noted the program's financial and environmental benefits. "It eases the burden on working families so they can use that money for medicine, food, or whatever else is needed."

Eligibility requirements for the program mirror those of the Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP, in regards to income guidelines. Applicants are generally addressed on a first-come-first-serve basis, and at this point, Allen said, there is still a waiting list.

"The sooner they apply, the sooner they can get on that list," said Allen.

Applications for ACAP's Weather Assistance Program are available for download on their website at www.acapinc.org. For more information, contact Barb Allen by calling 873-3207 or e-mail ballen@acapinc.org.

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