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USDA makes loans, grants available for low-income home repair

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Mark Moran

(Iowa News Service) AARP is working to raise awareness of loans and grants the U.S. Department of Agriculture is making available to very low-income seniors for home repairs and improvements, known as the 504 Home Repair Program.

Theresa Greenfield, Iowa rural development director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said the program is available to people in communities of 20,000 or fewer to help them stay in their homes. She pointed out the money can be used for a wide variety of improvements.

"Roofs. Windows. Electrical issues. Plumbing," Greenfield outlined. "Seniors who -- maybe their life has changed -- they need a hip replacement. They're going to be using a walker more often, and they want to make upgrades to their bathroom for example to become more handicapped accessible."

Since people have to meet certain criteria to qualify, Greenfield recommended working directly with the USDA to determine eligibility, and also to attend a webinar  May 24.

The program operates on making very low-interest loans or grants available to Iowans who qualify.

Greenfield noted since many people do not know about the program, a lot of money stands to go unused.  

"We do about $47 million worth of grants and about $28 million worth of loans, and we have plenty of resources here in Iowa to help folks," Greenfield explained. "Again, it's the goal to keep folks in their homes."

While the grants are available for Iowans 62 and older, there is no age restriction on the loans.