Weatherization stimulus funds in red tape

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - East Texas non-profit housing agencies planned to use federal stimulus money to weatherize homes.  Fall's cooler temperatures are arriving and not one cent of the government money has been spent. All the while needy home owners are waiting for assistance.

"It's on 74 and temp in here is 74," cancer and heart patient Carolyn Madkins, 59,  said while checking the thermostat in her Nacogdoches County home.  She is waiting for new insulation to lower a pricey electric bill. "The one when I went to Community Action to help me it was a thousand (dollars)," said the woman just two years away from receiving much needed Medicare.

Ronald Coleman is wanting to save the Nacogdoches County home he was born in 56 years ago from crumbling away. "The rafters going up in there is rotting on the ends," Coleman said while pointing to the deteriorating wood.

Just a sample of the East Texans waiting for weatherization repairs. Community Actions had expected to complete the work three months ago. "Of about 2 weeks ago we had about 1200 applications pending," Karen Swenson, director of the Greater East Texas Community Action program.  "And that's just my agency because there are Community Action agencies through out rural East Texas that are trying to do what we're doing."

The work can't begin because of vague federal and state documentation rules. Secured contractors are waiting for jobs. Swenson waits for over 5 million stimulus dollars to put them to work. "There are not any contractors in Texas receiving any contracts. We don't have the money," Swenson explained with a tone of frustration in her voice.

Non profits aren't strangers to bureaucracy, but they're  beginning to doubt if they'll ever receive the money. The stimulus weatherization funding must be used within three years or the state will lose it. Regularly budgeted weatherization money is still available, so those in need are still urged to apply.

Fortunately, there are patient clients. "Just kinda wondering if I'm going to get what I need before winter," Coleman said about the program he learned about from a friend. "I just keep saying God is good, God is good and He's going to see me through this,"  Madkins said. Tough times helping put things in perspective.

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