The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

December 20, 2013

Program focuses on helping veterans

A program in Limestone County and Madison could make a significant impact in the lives of area veterans.

The Reliance Bank Veteran Home Rehabilitation program will provide funding for home weatherization, energy efficient and handicap accessibility improvements to veterans, active duty members of any branch of the U.S. military or the surviving spouse of a veteran. The funding comes from the Home Rehabilitation Subsidy program through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta and will become available Jan. 1.

Data shows 76,000 U.S. veterans experience homelessness on any given night. The Veteran Home Rehabilitation program aims to keep veterans in their homes by helping with costly home repairs, and in most cases, reducing utility bills with energy efficient products, according to Hamlin Caldwell, mortgage program director with Reliance Bank.

Reliance Bank also aims to improve the living situations for handicapped veterans in the community by making improvements when it comes to accessibility.

“We did some research on the program and decided to get involved,” Hamlin said. “The more I talk to people in the veteran community, the more I realize how big of a need there is.”

The Federal Home Loan Bank has capped Limestone County funding at $1 million for the year, according to Hamlin. The grant starts at $12,500 for all veterans and active military, but goes up to $15,000 for veterans who have served in an overseas military intervention environment.

“If we do all the loans at $15,000, we could process and work about 66 homes through the year,” Hamlin said.

Eligible improvements include, but are not limited to exterior doors, HVAC systems, insulation, water heaters, roofs, windows, low-flow plumbing fixtures, exterior ramps and sidewalks, bathroom and kitchen renovations (for handicap accessibility), door widening, floor replacement and more.  Local contractors from Athens and Huntsville will do the work.

To qualify, recipients must be veterans, active duty members of any branch or their surviving spouse.

Income for those living in Limestone County and Madison must be below $40,150 for one person; $45,900 for two people; $51,650 for three people; $57,350 for four people; $61,950 for five people; $66,550 for six people and $71,150 for seven people.

Homeowners must have also owned and occupied the property for at least 30 days and must intend to occupy the property for five years. Each applicant must sign a security agreement that will be attached to the title for five years. Applicants who sell the home or do a cash back refinance over those five years have the possibility of having to repay the grant.

A copy of the applicant’s deed, VA documentation and a marriage certificate from the surviving staff are required.

Improvements are done on a first-come, first-served basis, according to Hamlin.

Morgan and Lawrence County are also taking part in the Reliance Bank Veteran Home Rehabilitation program.

Those who qualify or know someone who qualifies for the program should contact Hamlin Caldwell at 256-233-5884.

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