Funding granted for seniors in need

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EAST WILTON – Western Maine Community Action, Inc. has been given $261,475 in grant funding to help make Mainers’ homes more energy efficient and safer, it was announced today. The money will go toward helping senior citizens in need of assistance as fuel prices climb and winter approaches.

The grant, which comes through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program will be used for the Maine Keeping Seniors Home project. Administered through WMCA, the program seeks to allow more Maine seniors to live in their own residences, rather than group homes or assisted living communities. The program delivers a variety of consulting and assessment services through 10 community action groups throughout the state.

“We offer technical expertise,” WMCA Executive Director Fenwick Fowler said, “telling people what their options are for low interest rates, tax rebates and other options.”

Energy audits, designed to show homeowners how they can save money on heating expenses, is one example. Keeping Seniors Home also helps its customers will fall and fire prevention improvements, and advice with critical home repairs. The program does not provide money for the actual improvements, but helps families by finding options. The program is specifically targeted toward seniors and their families, who do not fall within the low income guidelines for the LIHEAP program.

“What we are discovering this year,” Fowler said, “is that it isn’t just the low income people that are in crises. We have lower-middle class people coming in as well.”

LIHEAP typically targets households whose income is 50 percent or less of the local income median. Keeping Seniors Home seeks to target those making between 50 and 80 percent of the income median.

“With the help of these funds, these communities citizens will be able to better weather the upcoming winter,” Senator Olympia Snowe and Senator Susan Collins said in a joint statement. “We applaud the USDA for releasing this funding.”

Fowler said that the $261,000 would be divided across the state utilizing the network of community action groups, with Franklin County’s delivery agency being WMCA itself. He guessed that each group would be able to assist seven to 10 families with the grant money.

Those interested in seeking assistance through WMCA can call 645-3764 or 800-645-9636. Those who call will be evaluated to see what their needs are and what programs they may qualify for. WMCA administers several other programs, including LIHEAP and Keeping Seniors Home. A coalition of churches has also entrusted the agency with their economical heating funds.

Fowler hopes that people contacting WMCA for one need will also take advantage of other services the agency can offer. Educating people about their options, he noted, was a big part of WMCA’s mission.

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