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Stimulus weatherization spending up

Post by Melissa Santos / The Olympian on April 12, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
April 12, 2010 2:30 pm

Washington’s spending of stimulus funds for low-income housing weatherization is back on track, state officials said today.

Since July 2009, state officials have upgraded more than 3,300 low-income housing units in Washington using nearly $30 million in stimulus money, according to a news release from Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office Monday.

The state’s progress qualifies it to start spending an additional $30 million that Washington was awarded for weatherization work last year, but which federal officials warned could be reallocated if the state failed to meet performance goals.

The state’s entire award of $59.5 million is expected to upgrade a total 7,000 homes with improvements such as energy efficient windows, new insulation and updated furnaces, all of which aim to reduce energy use.

The residential weatherization work was slow to start due to bureaucratic confusion about how to follow conflicting federal and state wage requirements.

State officials said they weatherized 186 homes with the stimulus money during the five-month period between July and the end of November.

In the five months since, they’ve used the stimulus money to complete work on an additional 3,100 units, according to the numbers released Monday.

See the governor’s press release below.

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today announced that Washington state met federal Recovery Act weatherization requirements, clearing the way for the Washington State Department of Commerce to receive an additional $30 million for low-income weatherization projects.

“Washington state is using our recovery money as it’s intended, and because of that – we’ve been recognized and awarded additional funding,” Gregoire said. “In these tough economic times, this funding provides some added relief for families and will create green job opportunities as well.”

The funding will help weatherize an estimated 7,000 homes statewide and be used for worker training, technical assistance and program support. This second round of stimulus funding adds to nearly $30 million received in July 2009, bringing Washington’s total to almost $60 million.

Washington state has weatherized more than 3,300 units, pushing close to the 50 percent mark and exceeding the required 30 percent of the overall Recovery Act production target of 7,170 units. The 30 percent target is one of two benchmarks set by the U.S. Department of Energy for states to qualify for the balance of Recovery Act funding. The second benchmark is confirmation from USDOE that the state’s monitoring and inspection plan is on track.

Washington is the second state to receive authorization from USDOE for the additional funds.

“Our weatherization program is a model for the rest of the nation,” said Rogers Weed, Director of the Washington State Department of Commerce. “Our team showed tremendous dedication to make sure this once-in-a-lifetime public funding is used wisely, helping thousands of people across the state.”

Low income families pay on average 25 percent of household income for home energy costs. By weatherizing their homes families can save 20 to 30 percent on their monthly heating bills. In Washington state, an estimated 150,000 low-income family homes are eligible for weatherization. If every eligible home is weatherized, the energy saved would be enough to supply power to all homes in a city the size of Redmond or Walla Walla.

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