Record Number of North Carolina Families Get Help with Utilities
July 26, 2010
In an unseasonably hot North Carolina summer, more low-income families than ever before are benefiting from home weatherization, and it's bringing them welcome relief. Federal economic stimulus funds are boosting weatherization efforts for these families in need. The stimulus funds are administered through Community Action programs like Wayne Action Group for Economic Solvency, Inc. (WAGES). They help hundreds of families by providing new air conditioning and heating systems and insulation. In some cases, these home improvements reduce families' utility bills by hundreds of dollars a year. Dr. Marlee Ray, WAGES executive director, describes how a large utility bill can affect a low-income family. "Having a large utility bill puts them in the position of having to make difficult decisions about what they provide for themselves."
When it comes to paying for utilities, the burden on low-income families is significantly higher than it is for higher-income households. On average, 17 percent of their budget goes toward gas and electric bills, compared to only four percent for other families. In many cases, the weatherization program is providing something most families could never afford on their own. After spending 10 years in an abusive relationship, Delores Williams found herself living in a condemned home, with unsafe ventilation. That's when she asked WAGES for help. "It has made such a big difference to me, and hopefully the heat will also decrease because my air is not escaping like it once was." WAGES weatherized 236 homes last year. The program hopes to complete at least 600 more in the next two years. Statewide, more than 900 homes have been weatherized to date.