Memphis gets $1.5 million grant to help weatherize homes

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Tuesday evening the Memphis City Council accepted a $1.5 million federal and state grant to go toward weatherizing homes to make them more energy efficient.

This comes after WREG told you about a study that found those living in the Memphis area are shelling out more of their income every month on their energy bill compared to other cities. Experts say that's not because we have high rates. It's because housing is so old and incomes are lower.

"It doesn't go away. It'll never go away. That's a bill you will always have," said Tarra Mathis.

If you want to keep the lights on you're stuck with an energy bill. An energy bill, that's not always easy to pay. Hickory Hill mother of five Tarra Mathis knows that.

"You have to buy groceries and do all kinds of things with your money. Kids in school, stuff like that," said Mathis.

Having more money for "stuff like that" is what Paul Young, Director of Housing and Community Development, said this $1.5 million grant is about.

"We talk about addressing poverty. This is a way that we can help put more money into people's pockets. They can spend less on the energy, they can spend more in other areas of the economy," said Young.

The Weatherization Assistance Program should help at least 57 families cut their energy costs. City contractors will make structural changes to their homes. Young said target areas are Hickory Hill, South and North Memphis, Raleigh, Whitehaven and Oakhaven.

"Weather stripping windows and doors, adding attic floors, wall installation, replacing HVAC systems. They also have the opportunity to replace gas appliance systems like hot water heaters and stoves," he said.

A maximum of $17,000 could go into making energy efficiency improvements to a single home. Another part of the grant is on the Health and Human Services side.

"Making sure the home is healthy and improving indoor air quality," explained Young.

Council member Martavius Jones said while the grant is good, it's also important to explore other options of less inexpensive ways to upgrade homes to help more people, like programmable thermostats.

"When we talk about all of the grand things we're doing we could be missing small opportunities to make a larger impact for our residents," said Jones.

For Mathis any kind of energy efficiency upgrade is a step in the right direction.

"Anything is good if it's gonna save you money on your bills," said Mathis.

Applications for the Weatherization Assistance Program will be looked at on a first come, first serve basis. Your income will be taken into consideration.

As for when you can apply, that has not been finalized. The city is still working the details out. It will be sometime next year.