While the middle of winter it isn’t the most opportune time for a furnace to stop working, that is typically what happens, and unfortunately Linda found that out first-hand.
The winter of 2019 will be remembered by most southeast Nebraska residents as a “real” Midwest winter, complete with cold dreary days, howling winds, and lots of snow. The type of weather where you long for the comfort of a nice warm home after venturing out to school, work, run errands, or just get the mail.
When the HVAC repairman came to look at Linda’s furnace, the news of having to replace the entire unit wasn’t what this cancer survivor, who was once again battling brain tumors, wanted or needed to hear. Linda had been struggling to keep up with high energy costs that came with living in the older Otoe County farm house that had been built in 1905. While the home had been updated prior to Linda purchasing it in 2014, there was little if any insulation in the attic, the doors were drafty, and both the furnace and air-conditioner were in dire need of replacement.
Confronted with repair and replacement costs that she could not afford, the HVAC repairman told Linda to contact Southeast Nebraska Community Action Partnership (SENCA) and ask about their Weatherization program. Weatherization is designed to help qualifying households, up to 200% of poverty, with energy related repairs and even the replacement of a furnace if needed. Linda wasted no time in contacting SENCA Weatherization and completing the application she found online. Housing Director, Gin Christiansen approved Linda’s application for Weatherization assistance which met established priority guidelines. Linda was over 60 years of age; disabled and undergoing a re-occurring bout with brain tumors while in her 5th round of radiation; she was struggling with high energy burden; and now unfortunately, was dealing with a furnace that quit in the dead of winter.
While the main focus was to remove the old furnace and install a new, more energy efficient one, an inspection of the home, completed by one of SENCA’s trained and certified housing inspectors, confirmed the need for other essential repairs that would help make the home more energy efficient. Because of Linda’s on-going health issues, in addition to Weatherization assistance, she also qualified for Emergency Repair and Replacement (ERR) funds that would cover the costs of adding a new energy efficient central air unit to her home. Households who receive Weatherization services will realize an average 18% reduction in energy related costs.
Even though Linda qualified for more than $13,000 of energy saving repairs and upgrades to her home, Josh Nincehelser, SENCA’s Energy Auditor/Quality Control Inspector, saw a need to refer Linda and her life partner to SENCA’s Otoe County Outreach Family Development Associate (FDA), Carol Aufenkamp. Following the initial meeting where the couple completed the required paper work, SENCA Outreach was able to assist them with funding to help ensure their water was not shut off. As a result of receiving emergency assistance the couple is required to participate in case management where they meet with Carol each month. To date the Otoe County couple has also received help with budgeting and food.
Linda is very grateful for the assistance provided by SENCA programs and services. “Our utility bills have gone down dramatically and the air conditioning has provided a lot of comfort after my weekly chemo treatments” shared Linda. She goes on to say “The assistance provided through SENCA has helped make my final years enjoyable as I can stop worrying about how to make ends meet. Josh, Gin, and Carol have shown kindness and support that has given me hope.”