USDA Answers Questions

Earlier this month we told you about a government-funded home improvement project that left a Columbia County homeowner very unhappy.

Since then Seven-On-Your-Side has been seeking answers from the USDA about how the program works.

We learned last week that the USDA will no longer give homeowners a list of contractors to pick from if they are getting a grant or low-interest loan to improve their home.

Here is what else we have now learned.

After visiting the home of Magnolia's Ruby Pickens, we had some questions for the USDA.

While no one was available to do an on-camera interview, we do now have written responses to our questions.

For example, what requirements does the USDA place on contractors?

Starting this year, an Arkansas contractor's license is required for most home improvement projects.

Also needed...a certified financial statement...which includes proof of insurance and a surety bond...a commercial credit report and reference checks.

If a homeowner is unhappy, what can be done?

Notify both the USDA and the contractor in writing and refuse final payment. The USDA might write a letter on the home owner's behalf but in the action might be necessary.

Has the USDA ever refused to approve a contractor based on complaints or poor performance?

The USDA is still researching that question.

And we wanted to know what USDA inspectors found when they visited Ms. Picken's home.

According to the USDA's written response: "Adverse findings indicated the exterior paint was not satisfactory."

Air date: November 27th, 2012