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Do you qualify for the federal weatherization program?

Some Pagosa area residents will be able to take advantage of federal stimulus funds with a program designed to encourage home energy efficiency.

The program, made available through President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), is being administered through the Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency (4CORE) and will assist low-income residents in making their homes more energy efficient.

Local residents at or below 200-percent of the federal poverty level (e.g. a family of four with an annual income of $44,000) can qualify for weatherization services and the program has been expanded to include families who would not have qualified in previous years.

The benefits of the program to local residents are obvious: by weatherizing their homes, residents will save money on utility bills which, in the winter months, can be especially high due to heating needs — on average, weatherization reduces heating bills by 32% and overall energy bills by about $350 per year.

However, other benefits result from the program as well — energy efficiency means reduced carbon emissions and cleaner air. Also, expansion of the program means the creation of new jobs as technicians are hired to meet the demands of increased home weatherization.

Although the program has been in existence for over 32 years, the Obama administration ramped up funding last April, up from $227 million in 2008 to $5 billion this year. While about 140,000 homes were weatherized nationally in previous years, the boost in funding through the ARRA could mean that up to 1 million homes get weatherized over the next year.

In Colorado, more than $79 million in ARRA dollars was released for weatherization, enough money to weatherize 16,750 homes over the next three years — over twice what is normally done each year.

According to 4CORE Executive Director Aileen Tracey, almost $1 million has been allocated for residents of Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan counties, with a goal of weatherizing 160 homes.

According to Tracey, 4CORE has partnered with Housing Solutions of the Southwest, NRG by Design and the Southwest Conservation Corps to provide weatherization services and, through those partnerships, has provided 12 new jobs throughout the four corners area.

As far as who will be selected for weatherization services, Tracey said, “Clients are scheduled to a priority system. The priorities are in this order: elderly (age 60 or older), disabled, and most in need.”

Although aspects of the program will include weather-stripping and caulking, other services might include (as needed) repaired or replaced furnaces, replacing refrigerators with Energy Star appliances, or window replacements.

The maximum payout per unit by the program is $6,500. However, according to the Governor’s Energy Office, the average payout for a Colorado home is $3,000-$3,500.

If local residents choose to take advantage of the program, they could feel less of a pinch this winter with heating costs — average savings after weatherization has amounted to over $400 a year per household. People interested in taking advantage of the program can get more information on the federal weatherization program at www.waptac.org/. Customers can also get information by contacting 4CORE through e-mail at info@fourcore.org. or phone at 259-1916.

jim@pagosasun.com