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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

USDA grants mean lower energy bills for some GA households

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Friday, January 12, 2024   

A Georgia group is using some U.S. Department of Agriculture Housing Preservation Grant funding to help people stay in and better afford their homes, while also saving energy. It's one of more than 200 projects transforming rural housing, infrastructure and economic conditions with federal funds.

Groundswell is a nonprofit working to facilitate home repairs and lower energy costs, with a focus on clean energy. Its CEO, Michelle Moore, said helping people cut their energy bills is one path to achieving housing equity.

"In fact," she said, "in many rural counties, households with low and moderate incomes pay 20%, 30%, sometimes even 40% of their entire household income for their home electricity bill."

So far, Moore said, the USDA grants have allowed Groundswell to assist 25 households in Troup County, helping them with repairs from fixing drafty floors to plumbing upgrades. She said these investments align with a Biden administration executive order to advance racial equity and support underserved communities.

Moore noted that the challenges faced by rural communities extend beyond housing deficiencies. She said local organizations - from city and county governments to nonprofits - often lack the necessary resources and fair-housing policies to adequately serve the local residents.

"In the quality of housing, and in one neighborhood versus another, have their roots in segregation - policies like redlining and other systemically racist policies, practices, and programs that have deprived families of the ability to live in a healthy, safe, affordable home," she said.

Moore said Groundswell also offers to connect interested groups with other organizations with experience securing federal funds, to help even more people address the specific needs of rural communities.


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