Susan and Gary Crone have learned that when you're in line for a federal stimulus giveaway, it could be a long wait.
It's been six months since a stimulus worker told the Tomball couple they qualified to receive a central air conditioning unit under the sweeping government jobs program authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. They've since gotten bounced around after a half-dozen calls to the Houston nonprofits that assisted them originally.
Most recently, a worker at the nonprofit Sheltering Arms Senior Services told Susan Crone that she would have to requalify for the stimulus program, Susan Crone said. On Saturday, they received a form, the same one they already filled out last year, asking them questions about income and utility costs, she said.
The Crones heat their 1,300-square-foot Hicks Street home with four window units. They keep the lighting dim, and they are hopeful that initial work contractors performed under the Weatherization Assistance Program will help keep utility costs lower this summer. Contractors put in new window screens on much of the house and added insulation between the interior and exterior walls, which were previously hollow.
"I would like to have my air conditioner," said Gary Crone, 61, a retired security worker. "It sure would cut down on my electric bill."
Crone's spine was injured after a truck struck him as he was crossing an intersection at Highway 249 and Cypresswood Drive on Dec. 15, 1999, he said. The family had one vehicle, and Crone was walking from his job at the Hewlett-Packard campus to meet his wife, who worked at a nearby pharmacy.
Crone was found to be at fault in the accident, he said, because he wasn't in a crosswalk at the time of impact.
Crone worked until 2003, when he determined the work was too strenuous given his injuries.
"I couldn't work," he said. "Nobody would hire me."
The family relies on $1,900 per month from federal disability payments, the couple said, which will be reduced this summer because a daughter will age out of the program. Susan Crone, 56, recently took a part-time retail job to try to make up the difference. They receive food from a church food pantry.
"We're proud people," Gary Crone said. "We wouldn't beg if we didn't have to."
The Crones said they're confused about why it's taken so long for the government, and by extension Sheltering Arms, to follow up on the federal stimulus worker's promise in December.
Susan Crone's account goes like this:
After the Crones filled out paperwork at Sheltering Arms to qualify for the Weatherization Assistance Program last year, a worker -- whose name the Crones did not record -- visited their home to assess its energy needs. After contractors performed initial work, he returned in December to inspect it. This was when he told them they would qualify for a 3.5-ton air conditioning unit. This was outside the parameters of his work, but he indicated he would relay the message.
When they didn't hear back for months, Susan Crone followed up by phone.
In April she called Northwest Assistance Ministries in Houston, the agency that had referred them to Sheltering Arms initially. She then called Sheltering Arms, speaking to at least three different people in May. Now she's filling out the form to qualify for the program, for a second time, with no indication as to whether the family still qualifies or what the time frame could be for installing an air conditioner.
On Monday we contacted Lynne Cook, coordinator for the Sheltering Arms federal stimulus weatherization program. An e-mail to Cook explained in detail the Crones' situation and asked for comment. We left a voicemail message seeking comment Wednesday morning. Cook has so far not responded.