USDA funding available to help low-income individuals and families buy or repair homes

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development has funding available for very low-and low-income individuals and families seeking to purchase or repair a home in a rural area.

The Direct Home Loan program offers financing to qualified very-low and low-income applicants that are unable to qualify for traditional financing. No down payment is required, and the interest rate could be as low as 1% with a subsidy. Applicants must meet income and credit guidelines and demonstrate repayment ability. The program is available in rural communities of generally 35,000 people or less.

The maximum loan amount is $20,000 at a 1% interest rate, repayable for a 20-year term and can be used to improve or modernize homes and do essential re- pairs. Grants of up to $7,500 are available to homeowners 62 and older and must be used to remove health or safety hazards, such as fixing a leaking roof, installing indoor plumbing, or replacing a furnace.

Time is limited to receive funds for the current fiscal year. Contact a USDA Rural Development Housing Specialist in your area to learn if you qualify.

USDA Rural Development loans and grants provide assistance that supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit

(USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.)

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Our focus is you—the member

Here’s a fun question: how do you show value?

One could do this by telling about price in comparable products. One could tell about value through accessibility or timeliness of a product. We could tell you about the value of eating a hamburger—it’s reasonably priced, there is easy access to it from a drive-thru and it was at just the right time for lunch break. All these items are true, but do they show the value of the hamburger? What if the true value of the hamburger was in its nourishment to the body?

What if the value of the hamburger was also in the beef producer that raised it? What if the value was in the restaurant owner that sold it to support their family? How do we show value rather than tell about it?

How do we show cooperative value to member-owners?

As you well know, our cooperative was started to form member-ownership in our service area for delivering electricity to member homes, farms and businesses. Eighty-five years later, Steele-Waseca is still delivering electricity to our member-owners and want to show, through our service and programs, how we keep you, the member, in focus.

Rooted in strategic direction from the co-op’s board of directors, seven cooperative value areas have been identified that keep our member-owners in focus. These value areas identify the “why” or purpose of our work. The seven value areas include: Quality Service, Cooperation and Collaboration, Life+, Growth, Appreciation, Trust and Innovation. In addition to identifying these value areas of the co-op, we’ve added an image, a visual icon that represents the value area. The adage is true: a picture is worth a thousand words, and we believe by assigning an icon to each of the seven areas, we’ll be better able to show Steele-Waseca work, like programs, rates, projects, and benefits of cooperative membership, in value-form.

While we hope you agree we have a long-standing history of providing great communication on cooperative updates and information, the desire of this enhanced value-communication approach will create awareness and provide additional education for our membership. Over the next three years, Steele-Waseca plans to highlight two to three values per year. While all efforts at the co-op are multi-valued, we feel that by demonstrating projects and happenings through value icons, their purpose will be clearer to our member-owners.

A few changes you’ll notice will be use of the value-area icons in our Sparks articles, as well as our website and social media posts. Steele-Waseca plans to bring this visual showing of value to our events, like town hall meetings, as well as our printed messages like news releases and co-op letterhead. Identifying cooperative value will show there is much more to Steele-Waseca than delivering electricity. We also deliver on membership value because we keep our members in focus—even if it’s over lunch break while eating a hamburger.

KW Saves kWhs: Sun in the day-Drapes at night & Bundle up

Kim Wilson (I’m the KW in ‘KW Saves kWhs’😊)
SWCE Billing Supervisor

With winter coming to your area soon, here are a couple easy ways to help you lower your heating costs. Check back each month for additional ideas.

Let the sun in during the day and close the drapes at night
Sunshine coming through your windows can help heat up a room. Opening and closing drapes strategically can help you save on your energy bill this winter. Open drapes when the sun is shining in, then close them when it gets dark. Be sure to close drapes and shades across all of your windows at night to prevent drafts and slow heat loss through the glass.

Bundle up and get cozy
Another way to keep energy costs down in winter is by turning down the thermostat. Experts recommend lowering your thermostat a few degrees during the day and then lowering it even more at night. You can save as much as 10% off your heating bill by turning your thermostat down 7°-10°F for just 8 hours a day. If you feel chilly, wear a sweater instead of cranking up the heat.

For more information, contact us at SWCE! More energy tips to come!

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