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Ways to access stimulus funds told at meeting

State Rep. Brita Sailer

About two dozen people heard a trio of officials outline how federal stimulus dollars might help residents make housing improvements. The meeting, Rep. Brita Sailer said, reflected the growing awareness of the need for energy security and self-sufficiency.

Much of the meeting centered on the piles of government forms and information sheets on the bleacher seats, together with free low-energy night lights and tips on reducing energy consumption in the home.

The Department of Commerce Office of Energy Security's Jeremy de Fiebre said Minnesota will get some $200 million in stimulus funding, with some $135 million of this for weatherization programs. He said that will enable improvements of about 20,000 homes, compared to only 3,000-4,000 under existing state programs.

Fifty-four million dollars will go to "outreach" programs which he did not explain, $10.6 million for block grants to communities and $5 million for appliance rebates.

"There will be money for training contractors," he said, "and because the whole stimulus program is job-related, it will require the employment of contractors to do weatherization work such as installing new windows." But when asked when they'd be paid, de Fiebre wasn't sure of the specifics but said, "I wouldn't wait to get it done."

A Bi-Cap representative said that organization is moving forward and already has added to its staff three auditors to review projects. Davis-Bacon wage guidelines will apply, but so far the organization hasn't seen the details.

The smaller than anticipated attendance was attributed to the lack of publicity and awareness that it was being held.