Co-op will help low-income families combat high bills

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 25, 2006

Congressman Terry Everett and USDA Rural Development State Director Steve Pelham were in Greenville on Thursday, delivering an $855,760 check to Pioneer Electric Cooperative, Inc.

The funding, provided through the USDA's High Energy Cost Grant program, will be used to provide energy efficient appliances, heating systems and home weatherization for Pioneer's low-income customers, according to Linda Horn, Energy Specialist for the multi-county cooperative.

Horn said the co-op is in the process of ensuring all government requirements are met for the administration of the grant. Horn said eligible customers must be classified as low-income and more information will be forthcoming in the near future about applying for funding, she said.

&#8220This grant is going to help us help others,” said Pioneer General Manager Steven Harmon. &#8220Many of our customers struggle with high electricity bills and this is designed for us to help the less fortunate with their bills.”

Horn said Pioneer customers with mobile homes are usually hit hardest in the wallet during the winter. She said electric heaters could cause condensation to collect on the ducting below the structure, causing a significant loss of heat.

&#8220Usually these customers are receiving the highest bills for heat and their home is not even warm,” she said.

Harmon said a study conducted by Pioneer and the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise three years ago indicated co-op members could lower electricity costs between 30 and 40 percent with proper energy-saving measures.

The funds were part of a total of nearly $2 million presented by USDA Rural Development to communities in Barbour, Butler, Crenshaw, Coffee, Dale and Lowndes Counties on Friday.

&#8220These funds from USDA Rural Development will assist first responders, will help promote business development, energy conservation and provide needed equipment in several communities in southeast Alabama,” said Pelham.

Everett said the federal investment would have a direct and positive impact.

&#8220When it comes to assisting the state's rural and urban communities with vital funding for industrial and business development and critical local infrastructure and public safety upgrades, USDA Rural Development leads the way,” he said.