U.S. to release $780 million in stimulus energy money

WASHINGTON Thu Mar 12, 2009 6:25pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government will soon send states $780 million for the recently enacted stimulus plan's energy efficiency component, Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday.

Over two years, the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will allocate nearly $8 billion to energy efficiency.

Most of the funding is dedicated to helping those with low incomes modify their homes to conserve energy and lower heating bills. Up to $6,500 can be invested in a home for energy upgrades for families making up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which the Obama administration said is about $44,000 a year for a family of four.

But the act also provides money for state energy programs, alternative electricity generation, and for reducing energy use in government and school buildings.

Biden said that the program will help make the country less reliant on foreign energy sources and will create jobs.

An energy department official said the U.S. government will establish about 40 training centers to teach workers how to assess homes' heating and electricity usage and to make the modifications.

States must submit a basic application for the funds to the Department of Energy soon. They will initially receive 10 percent of their funding and within 60 days will have to submit more detailed plans. Then they will receive 20 to 40 percent of their share of the money, depending on their programs' readiness.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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