State of New Jersey Recognizes Camden County Council On Economic Opportunity, Inc. for Providing “Superior” Home Energy and Weatherization Assistance to Residents
Camden County OEO is rated as the best in the state in helping low-income homeowners and tenants improve the energy efficiency of their homes and assisting clients pay rising energy bills
Pennsauken, NJ, August 26, 2010 - Homeowners are being drained by the rising costs to heat and cool their homes. People find themselves suddenly out of work in the sagging economy and out of money to repair or replace their inefficient water heater, furnace or boiler. Thousands of families face shutoff notices for unpaid heating and electric bills.
Nationwide there are programs to assist eligible persons improve the energy efficiency of their homes and help pay rising heating and cooling costs. In New Jersey, the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Office of Low Income Energy Conservation (OLIEC) annually rates and recognizes the performance of Weatherization Assistance Programs.
For 2009, New Jersey has named the Camden County OEO as operating the best and most successful weatherization assistance program in the entire state. The plaque for “superior performance” in making repairs to homes needing energy efficient measures is appropriately decorated with a golden hammer. Camden County OEO also received the first award ever given for providing superior home energy assistance, making it the first agency to have won the top two awards for high performance. A third award was presented to the agency located in Pennsauken on Route 70 for ranking second in the state in the timely reporting of its projects to the Department of Community Affairs OLIEC.
Last year, the Camden County OEO program processed 20,717 applications – a 25 percent jump over 2008 – from households seeking financial help in making payments to their utility companies. After checking areas of the homes for heat loss, Camden County OEO made repairs, replaced 184 heating units and weatherized 439 homes.
“Camden County OEO is dedicated to improving the lives of low-income families and individuals,” said Arnold N. Byrd, Executive Director of the private, non-profit organization headquartered in Camden City.“We are especially pleased that our staff and program are being recognized for their hard work, high performance and significant impact.”
Faheem El Saleem, President of the Camden County OEO Board of Directors, agreed. “You can’t lose,” El Saleem said, “when you help others win.”
Camden County OEO’s weatherization assistance program outperformed 21 other community-based, energy assistance agencies in New Jersey funded by the Department of Community Affairs OLIEC, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Human Services. This marks the seventh year and the first time since 2002 that the Camden County OEO program has been ranked as the best in the state. DCA’s OLIEC annual competition and its rankings are based on a five-point scoring and performance system: cost, number of completed units, the quality of work, adequate staffing, and the timely reporting of all performed work each quarter to the DCA Office of Low Income Energy Conservation in Trenton.
“My staff was very excited to receive statewide recognition. We have a great group of people who take great pride in their performance,” said Michele Brown-Williams, Director of Camden County OEO’s Home Energy and Weatherization Assistance Program. “During the home heating season, November 1 to June 30, we receive calls for help non-stop, about 200 calls per day.”
Homeowners and tenants qualify for the home energy and weatherization assistance program based on income guidelines set by the Federal government. When qualified, low-income clients are assisted with a home energy audit. A device known as a “blower door” is installed temporarily in the homes to detect air leaks. Appliances are also inspected for efficiency.
The audit examines homes to determine if hot air is leaking out through improperly sealed windows, doors or through a poorly insulated attic. Furnaces or boilers, stoves, water heaters and even refrigerators are tested for efficiency. Clients are informed of the results and scheduled for any needed financially assisted repairs. Work is performed by subcontractors supervised by Camden County OEO’s trained technicians.
Each year, the agency pays out an average of $2,800 per household, to a maximum of $6,500, in repairing and replacing heating units. Clients facing shutoff notices also receive one-time assistance with direct payments to their gas and electric utility company or home-heating oil supplier. During the summer months, eligible households can also qualify for a free fan or receive a maximum payment of $200 toward their cooling expense.
Brown-Williams, who supervises a staff of 25, especially credits the work of her two auditing technicians: James Hightower and Isaias Nunez, for contributing to her program’s continued success. Because of the increased demand on the program, she said she plans to hire additional technicians to help conduct the home energy audits.
Founded in 1965, Camden County Council On Economic Opportunity, Inc. (Camden County OEO) is a private, non-profit agency serving and uplifting low-income individuals and families in Camden County, New Jersey. Camden County OEO’s dual purpose is arranging for or providing material assistance that gives immediate relief to low-income persons in emergency circumstances. In addition, the organization provides programs and services to help clients achieve self-sufficiency.
To better serve its clients, Camden County OEO also recently launched its new Web site: http://www.camdencountyoeo.net.
CAMDEN COUNTY OEO ENERGY PROGRAM RATED BEST IN NEW JERSEY -- Michele Brown-Williams (center), program director for the Home Energy and Weatherization Assistance Program, of Camden County Council On Economic Opportunity, Inc., proudly displays the awards presented to her and the organization for operating the very best program in the entire State of New Jersey in 2009. Camden County OEO's multi-award-winning service program assists eligible residents improve the energy efficiency of their homes and pay rising heating costs. Headquartered in Camden City, Camden County OEO beat out 21 similar statewide programs. Brown-Williams is aided here by two of the program’s 25 employees (L-R): Catherine Chaparro, office secretary; and Renata Jones, who helps monitor home energy services provided to low-income clients. The plaques were awarded by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Office of Office of Low Income Energy Conservation (OLIEC) which funds the programs with the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Human Services.
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Sam W. Pressley