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      A NECAC program that's weathering

      Hilly Jacklin's heating bill use to cost her a pretty penny, until last year when she entered into North East Community Action Corporation or NECAC's weatherization program.

      "It saved a tremendous amount of money," Jacklin said. "My tenants next door, their electric bill one month was well over $300 and mine was only about $125."

      "The weatherization program is designed to make homes more energy efficient," Carla Potts, NECAC deputy director, said. "We insulate, we put new furnaces in, in many cases."

      The weatherization process saves NECAC clients more than $400 dollars annually. Last year the program helped almost 140 people but this winter season that number will decrease.

      "The program is in a lot of trouble, it's been cut in Washington," Potts said. "It's federal funding that has been cut and that means less people will have the opportunity to have that energy saving."

      "It's been cut drastically, now we're probably going to be able to do fifty or sixty at the most," Ken Schneidler, NECAC weatherization director, said.

      NECAC employees say clients aren't the only ones effected by the cuts.

      "We've had to layoff a number of staff, over 50 people" Potts said. "Those are people that don't have jobs now and people that have the knowledge to do this work that are no unemployed."

      "It makes it harder on us because we're down to eight people where we had 50 to 60 people a year ago," Charles Sidwell, NECAC assistant weatherization director, said. "I've been with the program a long time and I don't even remember seeing the budget cut as much as it's been cut now."

      The lack of federal funding from the Department of Energy is now causing NECAC to rely on other financial crutches to keep the weatherization program going.

      "We get some from the Department of Natural Resources, then the utility companies also donate some money like Ameren Gas, Ameren Electric, those," Schneidler said.

      Potts is now urging the public to help by writing letters to congress and making small donations to the program that she says is worth saving. A statement Jacklin agrees with.

      "I've been telling my neighbors to apply, I've been telling neighbors to apply, I even called my daughter long distance in North Carolina to apply since this is a federal program," Jacklin said.