Free money available for home improvement and energy efficiency

Funding for low-income residents in the Athens area is now available for home weatherization and energy efficiency improvements through a number of different programs.

The Athens Land Trust, Action, Incorporated and Georgia Power all have similar programs designed to assist low-income homeowners and help Athens meet its clean energy goals at the same time. The requirements for each program and instructions on how to apply are discussed below.

While most programs focus on assisting low-income Georgians, other homeowners can also benefit from the new tax credits and rebates coming as part of the Inflation Reduction Act and bipartisan infrastructure law.

Athens Land Trust’s Athens Energy Opportunity Program

The Athens Land Trust and partner organizations including Action, Incorporated, the ACC Sustainability Office and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy held a community forum last week at New Grove Baptist Church to spread the word about these home improvement programs, starting with Athens Land Trust’s Athens Energy Opportunity Program.

Athens Land Trust’s program is designed to educate community members in the West Broad and North Athens areas about energy efficiency and to get homes in these neighborhoods ready for weatherization by providing repairs.

Dr. Tawana Mattox, Athens Land Trust’s Community Education and Empowerment Director, says the program started three years ago and they’ve already made improvements to 41 homes, including plumbing upgrades, electrical work and tree pruning, removal and replanting. While the Athens Land Trust originally planned to focus directly on weatherization, Mattox says they quickly realized that many homes needed repairs first before the energy efficiency work could begin.

With their new round of grant funding, provided by Georgia Drawdown and the federal Department of Energy, Mattox says the Athens Land Trust will focus primarily on home repairs to make them ready for the weatherization which will be provided by their community partner Action, Inc.

“We’ve developed an unofficial coalition to make sure we put our resources and talents together so that we aren’t leaving anyone behind,” Mattox said at last week’s meeting.

Dr. Tawana Mattox in a church hall
Dr. Tawana Mattox leads a community meeting on Tuesday, March 28 at New Grove Baptist Church.

Paying utility bills can be a challenge for many Athens residents who are paid low wages and live in older homes that are often less energy efficient, leading to higher power bills. Costly energy bills can often force low-income residents to take out high-interest loans just to keep the lights on. “It’s a vicious cycle,” Mattox said.

Residents who live in the West Broad and North Athens areas with a household income less than 200% of the federal poverty line are eligible for the program. That’s an income cap of $29,160 a year for an individual, or $60,000 for a family of four. 

Contact Dr. Tawana Mattox directly at 706-613-0122 or email her at tawana@athenslandtrust.org to apply. Renters may also apply with their landlord’s signature.

Action, Inc.’s Weatherization Assistance Program

Another pool of funding available to help low-income residents reduce their power bills is Action, Incorporated’s Weatherization Assistance Program. This program is available to all low-income residents in Athens-Clarke and surrounding counties.

To apply, contact the Action, Inc. office at (706) 546-8293, extension 19 to schedule an appointment. If you qualify, Action, Inc. will perform an energy audit of your home to see what needs to be improved. For example, your home might need insulation, weather stripping, window repair or repairing or replacing a furnace or hot water heater.

They will perform these repairs for you at no cost.

However, if your home has structural damage, moisture problems or pest infestations, you may not be eligible for the program, according to Travis Royster of Action Inc. who was present at last week’s meeting. In this case, you may be referred back to the Athens Land Trust for home repair first.

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Georgia Power’s Energy Assistance Program

Another program, offered by Georgia Power, is available for all Georgia Power customers whose household income is 200% of the federal poverty line or less.

You can apply for Georgia Power’s Energy Assistance for Savings and Efficiency Program here. You can also contact Aron Hall at the ACC Office of Sustainability at 706-286-4449 or aron.hall@accgov.com for help filling out the application.

If you qualify, Georgia Power will perform an in-home assessment similar to Action, Inc’s energy audit. Then, they’ll make energy efficiency improvements like improving attic insulation, sealing air gaps and cracks, installing smart thermostats and LED light bulbs and servicing HVAC units – all for free.

And there’s more!

Cary Ritzler, Georgia Organizer with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, was also present at last week’s community meeting. She informed the audience of an array of tax credits and rebates that are coming available as part of the Inflation Reduction Act and bipartisan infrastructure law.

Tax Credits

A new round of tax credits went into effect in January that can help taxpayers defray up to 30% of the cost of solar panels, battery storage, more efficient water heaters, heat pumps, insulation, new doors and windows and even electric vehicle chargers.

For more information, check out www.energy.gov.

Rebates

By 2024, rebates and low-interest loans will also be available to help homeowners improve the energy efficiency of their homes and lower their power bills. Low-income households (at or under 80% of the area median income) will be prioritized for assistance and could receive up to $14,000 per household.

With Georgia Power set to jack our power bills by 2.6% this year and 4.5% in 2024 and 2025, there’s never been a better time to invest in energy efficiency. With a combination of tax credits, rebates and programs available for low-income households in Athens, most homeowners can probably afford to make some of these improvements (and save money while doing so).

Let’s get to work making Athens a little greener, y’all!

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