$500 grants available for small home repairs

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BENNINGTON — A housing nonprofit group has started offering a $500 grant to help low-income people make crucial home repairs.

The NeighborWorks of Western Vermont launched the program this fall after seeing that a small repair job often turns into a costly project among residents who have a tight budget. For instance, an unattended roof leak could eventually require a new roof, a faulty electrical outlet can start a fire, or drips in the plumbing can rot out a floor.

"The people who need those small jobs are often the ones who don't get them," said David Traver Adolphus, the organization's project coordinator in Bennington.

Now, people who take out at least a $2,000 home repair loan with NeighborWorks can apply for the $500 grant. If approved, they'll need to then repay only $1,500 in loans.

To qualify, a grant applicant's household income needs to be no more than 80 percent of their county's median household income. In Bennington, that's $40,250 for a household of one; $46,000 for two; $51,750 for three; $57,500 for four; and $62,100 for five.

Applicants also need to pass a credit check, which Traver Adolphus admitted makes it harder for more people to get the grant.

Landlords can also receive the financial assistance - they're not subject to income limits - as long as their tenants' household incomes qualify.

The process starts with a "phone intake" that takes around 10 minutes. Those who qualify get a home visit from Traver Adolphus, who will conduct a health and safety inspection, as well as talk to the owners about their most crucial repair needs. His findings go into a written report.

"We work off of that list to determine what people can afford and turn that into a loan amount," he said, adding that the entire process takes at least 30 days, depending on the paperwork required. "$500 might not be a lot of money for some people, but for many of our neighbors that could be the difference between going cold and having a working furnace this winter."

NeighborWorks keeps the loan money for the home repair in escrow until contractors finish their work and can be paid.

The organization is also offering the program in Rutland and Addison counties. To find out more, call 802-438-2303 or visit nwwvt.org.

Tiffany Tan can be reached at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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