Article courtesy of the Alpine Observer 16/11/22.
ALPINE Shire community groups have shared in a total of $340,916 grants funding across 11 recipients, thanks to the Bendigo Bank’s Bushfire Disaster Appeal recovery grants program.
The Alpine Community Bushfire Recovery Grants Program was set up to aid in the long-term recovery of the Alpine
Region by assisting in the continued relief, recovery, reconstruction and sustainability of communities and people
impacted by the Black Summer Bushfires.
Sustainable Upper Ovens Inc received $49,680 for a pilot study to trial two community–based funding models to provide solar PV installations for low–income households.
President Dennis Lambert said funding was “absolutely fantastic news".
“We’re really looking forward to getting this underway; we’ve successfully put solar panels on community and childcare centres and set up interest–free loans but residential homes are trickier," he said.
“Residential homes have the potential to be sold so there’s less property security but we want this opportunity to expand to people suffering energy stress and on low incomes such as single parents or older pensioners.
“The grant is essentially four lots of $10,000 for four houses so my current focus will be on elderly couples or single elderly people.
“Historically this circular funding, which allows participants to pay us back over 5–7 years interest–free, means they will only get the benefits after they’ve paid it off but people experiencing energy stress need those benefits immediately.
“We want to make that happen but we need to work out the legalities of using properties that can change tenants."
Mr Lambert said the first step is to work out those legalities, which he expects will be completed by January next year.
“We’ve contracted a Beechworth business to help us with this and as soon as it’s done and we get the households on board we will move as quickly as possible," he said.
“A big advantage to this is the underlying householder has to do nothing; while the system is still jointly owned until it’s paid off we will manage the cleaning, maintenance and anything else.
“Also with community–based circular funds if, for any reason, you can’t pay you just let us know and there’s no penalty.
“We’ve found in the past that when you supply low cost funding your default level falls through the floor and people are more likely to repay you early than to repay you late.
“We’ve had a group in the past who received some extra funding and told us they wanted to pay us out early so we could use the money for another community project.
“That’s what community power is bringing this back to us; as a community you look after those who are most vulnerable, I think it’s part of our social responsibility."
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