MOULTRIE -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is doubling the amount it usually gives to the Southwest Georgia Community Action Council for home repair for the needy.

On Friday, USDA officials come to Moultrie to present SWGCAC Director Myrtice Ndawula a check for $247,715. The entire grant allocation from the USDA Housing Preservation Grant Program for the whole state will go to SWGCAC's 13-county area.

SWGCAC submitted a proposal for 50 percent of the allocation and was told that that's what it would get, Ndawula said.

"But then we got a call, and they told us that they had made a decision to award the entire amount to us. It's probably because we have a very good track record in how we administer the program," she said.

The target group for aid is low-income senior citizens or handicapped individuals who own their own homes, said William Weatherspoon, director of the SWGCAC housing and energy department. At least 60 percent of the money must go to senior citizens, he said, and allocations are based on income and household size.

Some 35 to 40 substandard homes in the area -- an average of three houses per county -- will be brought up to code thanks to the program, he said. Repairs can range from roof repairs and plumbing repairs to making the home accessible for the handicapped.

"Average costs for repairs usually runs about $8,000 per housing unit. Sometimes it's a little low, and sometimes it's a lot higher," Weatherspoon said.

The waiting list is long for the government aid. SWGCAC has a three-year waiting list, Weatherspoon said.

Ndawula added that the full allocation might put them in a better posture for future funds.

"This is just one of the many funding streams we have to address housing issues. We have other programs, but the list is so long. Despite the fact that we are getting this grant and we get other grants, we're still not able to meet the needs in terms of people who apply for services. And that's why we have such a long waiting list," the director said.

Southwest Georgia Community Action Council serves people in Baker, Calhoun, Colquitt, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Grady, Lee, Marion, Miller, Mitchell, Schley, Seminole, Sumter, Terrell, Thomas, Webster and Worth counties.

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