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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston, TX; Election Protection Program eases access to voting information; surge in solar installations eases energy costs for Missourians; IN makes a splash for Safe Boating Week.

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The Supreme Court rules funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is okay, election deniers hold key voting oversight positions in swing states, and North Carolina lawmakers vote to ban people from wearing masks in public.

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Americans are buying up rubber ducks ahead of Memorial Day, Nebraskans who want residential solar have a new lifeline, seven community colleges are working to provide students with a better experience, and Mississippi's "Big Muddy" gets restoration help.

USDA grants mean lower energy bills for some GA households

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Friday, January 12, 2024   

A Georgia group is using some U.S. Department of Agriculture Housing Preservation Grant funding to help people stay in and better afford their homes, while also saving energy. It's one of more than 200 projects transforming rural housing, infrastructure and economic conditions with federal funds.

Groundswell is a nonprofit working to facilitate home repairs and lower energy costs, with a focus on clean energy. Its CEO, Michelle Moore, said helping people cut their energy bills is one path to achieving housing equity.

"In fact," she said, "in many rural counties, households with low and moderate incomes pay 20%, 30%, sometimes even 40% of their entire household income for their home electricity bill."

So far, Moore said, the USDA grants have allowed Groundswell to assist 25 households in Troup County, helping them with repairs from fixing drafty floors to plumbing upgrades. She said these investments align with a Biden administration executive order to advance racial equity and support underserved communities.

Moore noted that the challenges faced by rural communities extend beyond housing deficiencies. She said local organizations - from city and county governments to nonprofits - often lack the necessary resources and fair-housing policies to adequately serve the local residents.

"In the quality of housing, and in one neighborhood versus another, have their roots in segregation - policies like redlining and other systemically racist policies, practices, and programs that have deprived families of the ability to live in a healthy, safe, affordable home," she said.

Moore said Groundswell also offers to connect interested groups with other organizations with experience securing federal funds, to help even more people address the specific needs of rural communities.


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