Heating and Cooling Solutions

504 Program

Dear Comfort Advisor,

Your technicians have been servicing my mother’s heating system for years now. On this last visit your company left an information sheet on a USDA loan/grant program that might help pay for a new furnace. We are helping her with the application process now. Please spread the word about this program because I think many seniors are not aware of it and it could really help them out.

Watchdog Daughter

Dear Watchdog,

The USDA program referred to is the Home Improvement Loans and Grants 504 program. Our local Rural Development office handles this federally funded program. It is not limited to senior citizens; other low income families could qualify for the loan portion. Seniors (62 years or older) could qualify for a grant to cover home improvements. Depending on the amount needed for improvements a combination loan and grant could apply. This is an income eligible program so I strongly urge folks to give the RD office a call to get an application and for eligibility details (see phone number and address at the end of this article).

Here are some other general details about the program. The home must be structurally sound and if it is a mobile home it must be located on a permanent foundation. The interest rate for the loan is 1% with a maximum term of 20 years and a $20,000 loan cap. Grant funds cannot exceed $7,500. Grant recipients must agree to not sell the home for three years.

We obviously see a need for mechanical and energy improvements in our line of work, but this program can fund any number of home improvements and repairs. In addition to energy conservation measures, like installation of insulation, storm windows, and repair or replacement of heating systems, funds can be used for electrical upgrades, plumbing, roofs, siding, and other structural improvements.

We see so many older inefficient heating systems sending oodles of money up the flue every month. That is money better kept in pocket, but so many seniors on fixed incomes don’t have the capital to replace those older systems and programs like this make those improvements possible. In addition to saving energy and increasing safety around the home, this program helps to strengthen our existing housing stock. When folks can’t afford improvements, the house can fall into disrepair lowering its value and diminishing values for surrounding properties.

It is wonderful that you are assisting your mother through this process. Seniors can be skeptical and intimidated by the necessary paperwork, but the staff at our Rural Development office really do want to help and see these funds put to use helping citizens in our area. Alerting our customers about programs like this is just one more component of delivering outstanding service. Collaboration among agencies and organizations strengthens the community we care so much about. The RD offices are located at 450 Corporate Drive, Suite 111 and the phone number is (406) 756-2005.

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