By JIM ABRAMS

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House has passed legislation that would provide people in rural areas with low-interest loans for energy upgrades for their homes.

Democratic-led supporters said the bill would promote construction jobs while helping homeowners lower their energy costs through better insulation, double-paned windows or more efficient heat pumps.

Under the legislation, the Agriculture Department would make zero-interest loans to rural electric co-ops, which in turn would make loans to qualified consumers at interest rates not to exceed 3 percent. The loans would be repaid on the consumers' utility bills, with savings from the energy upgrades covering much of the cost.

The measure must still be taken up by the Senate.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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