Agencies across North Carolina are seeking low-income families to apply for the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides home improvements that can cut utility bills and make homes safer and more energy efficient.

The Weatherization Assistance Program provides low-income households with an energy audit that tests for air infiltration, heat loss and carbon monoxide levels. The federal money pays for improvements, such as insulation, carbon monoxide detectors and sealing cracks and other leaks to cut utility bills and improve residents’ safety.

The national weatherization program began in 2009 to help create green jobs, and has been largely funded by federal stimulus money. As of June 30, North Carolina has spent only $71.7 million of the $132 million from the federal stimulus said Seth Effron, communications director for the N.C. State Energy Office. The program has until March 2012 to use the stimulus funds, however there is no deadline to use state or local funds. The state goal is to weatherize 12,250 homes by March 2012, and as of June 30, 9,660 homes have been weatherized.

The program got off to a slower start across the state than initially expected (“N.C. scrambling to catch up on weatherization goals,” Sept. 1, 2010)

More than 25 agencies across North Carolina administer the program. In the Triangle, those organizations are Operation Breakthrough in Durham County, Joint Orange-Chatham Community Action (JOCCA) in Orange and Chatham counties, and Resources for Seniors in Wake County.

To qualify for the program, a household must be at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and complete an application process. Households that receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) automatically qualify. Priority will be given to the elderly, the disabled and families with children. There is no deadline to apply, but North Carolina has until March 2012 to use the federal funding for the program.

The program can provide assistance for single-family homes, apartments, condominiums and mobile homes. You do not have to own your home to be eligible, but renters must have written permission from their landlord.

For more information or to apply for the program:

In Durham County contact Operation Breakthrough at (919) 688-8111

In Orange and Chatham Counties, contact JOCCA at (919) 542-4781

In Wake County contact Resources for Seniors at (919) 713-1570