Green Jobs for Veterans in Colorado – Weatherization Assistance Program
AS OF 2008, THERE WERE OVER ONE MILLION UNEMPLOYED MILITARY VETERANS IN THE UNITED STATES.1 WORSE, THE DOMESTIC ECONOMIC DOWNTURN HAS MADE IT MORE DIFFICULT FOR EMPLOYERS TO HIRE WORKERS ACROSS MANY SECTORS. BUT, THOUGH OPPORTUNITIES IN SOME INDUSTRIES HAVE EVAPORATED, OTHER OPPORTUNITIES HAVE BEEN CREATED. THE PROSPECT OF GREEN JOBS HAS PROVIDED A BEACON OF HOPE FOR VETERANS SEEKING EMPLOYMENT. THANKFULLY, A PORTION OF THE FUNDING FROM THE AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT WILL SEEK TO PUT VETERANS BACK TO WORK FOR THE BETTERMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE STATE OF COLORADO.
As veterans served the nation in war, they will continue to serve the nation through the Weatherization Assistance Program, a part of the Recovery Act, in Colorado. The Governor’s Energy Office has teamed up with the organization Veterans Green Jobs to weatherize homes in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. The program offers job trainings to become energy auditors and energy efficiency specialists. The training costs are largely covered by stipends and revenue from on-site work. Veterans Green Jobs will receive over $1 million from the state’s Recovery Act WAP allocations to make 240 homes in six counties more energy efficient.2 The veterans will be paid good wages of $12 to $24 per hour depending on the county, and will gain expertise in energy efficiency. These skills will give veterans a strong grip on the first rungs of the promising green economy career ladder, a ladder that the Recovery Act’s investments in America is starting to build.
This initiative will not only provide jobs for the brave men and women who served our country, but it will also cut energy consumption statewide, reduce energy bills for low-income con-sumers, and avoid harmful greenhouse gas pollution. By providing employment opportunities for veterans living in Colorado, veter-ans will be on the front lines of economic and environmental re-covery in the state of Colorado.
In addition to Veterans Green Jobs, ten other non-profit organizations will administer the Weatherization Assistance Pro-gram in Colorado. Colorado plans to use the $80 million in Recovery Act WAP funds to weatherize 16,280 homes.3 Colorado’s por-tion under the Recovery Act represents a four-fold yearly increase from its 2008 allocation, providing the opportunity to reach more homeowners.
Along with an increase in funding, there has also been an increase in eligibility requirements, making it possible for more homeowners and renters to have their homes weatherized. Previously, household income levels could not exceed 150% of the federal poverty level in order to qualify for the program. Under the Recovery Act, families can earn up to 200% of the federal poverty level to qualify for the program. The increase raises eligible yearly income from $33,075 to $44,100 for a family of four. A family of five can qualify with an income of up to $51,580 per year, and a family of six can qualify with an income of up to $59,060.
Also, funding has increased for the improvements that can be done within a home. Now, $6,500 can be spent on each home for weatherization, up from $2,500 in previous years. With increased funding available per home, more can be done to ensure that energy waste is minimized and energy savings are maximized.
The eleven non-profit weatherization administrators across the state will focus on energy efficiency by first conduct-ing an energy audit. Workers will assess areas of energy waste in the home which may include leaky points of air infiltration and outdated appliances. Auditors will use a variety of advanced energy monitoring techniques and technologies to pinpoint areas for improvement. After the energy audit is complete and a plan of improvement is created, a weatherization crew will return to the home to perform the energy efficiency upgrade. They will seal leaky fixtures, windows, and door frames, install insulation in floors, sidewall, and attics, and tune or repair heating equipment. Often, staff from non-profit agencies will educate residents on how to make small changes in their behavior to reduce overall energy consumption. These behavioral changes may include lowering the thermostat at night and closing blinds to keep the sun’s heat out during summer days.
After weatherization improvements have been made, eligible Coloradans will immediately save money on their monthly utility bills. Individual homeowners will save $300-$400 on their bill per year, freeing up cash that residents can spend in their communities to support local businesses and jobs. State officials must ensure that all WAP funds are spent by April 2011. By that time, homeowners and renters in the state will have saved over $10.5 million.
The Weatherization Assistance Program will also create jobs. With the veterans hired by Veterans Green Jobs, the program will employ 742 direct weatherization workers. Direct jobs refer to the hiring of contractors and workers to carry out energy audits and energy efficiency improvements. In addition, the pro-gram will support an additional 1,379 indirect jobs through the manufacture and delivery of products used to improve energy efficiency such as insulation, win-dow sealant, blower doors, and energy efficient appliances. These are jobs that provide workers with knowledge and skills that can be transferred to a variety of applications in the green economic recovery.
The Weatherization Assistance Program will not only contribute to healthier homes, but it will also contribute to a healthier planet. In 2005, Colorado’s residential emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) totaled 3.5 metric tons per capita. This total is higher than per capita CO2 emissions in five of the seven states that share a border with Colorado.4 Reducing energy waste reduces greenhouse gas emissions; especially in Colorado where close to 70% of the state’s electricity comes from burning coal.5 The Weatherization Assistance Program will result in 67,907 fewer metric tons of CO2 emissions, the equivalent of taking over 12,000 passenger vehicles off the road over the three year period of the program.
Because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, brave veterans who served this nation will be provided good, green jobs here at home. They will work to make homes more energy efficient for the betterment of low-income residents and Colorado’s economy. With the help of agencies such as Veterans Green Jobs, the Colorado Weatherization Assistance Program will support over two thousand local jobs, make over sixteen thousand homes more energy efficient, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the state by over sixty-seven thousand metric tons, weatherizing the way to a productive, prosperous, and healthy future.
For further information, contact:
85 Second Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
SIERRA CLUB NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS: 85 Second St., Second Floor • San Francisco, CA 94105 • (415) 977-5500
SIERRA CLUB LEGISLATIVE OFFICE: 408 C St. NE • Washington, DC 20002 • (202) 547-1141
1 United States Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment Situation of Veterans Summary” March 20, 2009 http://www.bls.gov/news.release/vet.nr0.htm
2 Veterans Green Jobs, “Gov. Ritter Announces Veterans Green Jobs will Provide San Luis Valley Energy Work” September 23, 2009 http://veteransgreenjobs.org/press/coverage/ritter-slv-anouncement
3 United States Government Accountability Office – Report to Congressional Committees, “Recovery Act – States’ and Localities’ Current and Planned Uses of Funds While Facing Fiscal Stresses (Colorado)” July 2009 http://www.colorado.gov/dpa/dfp/sco/contracts/ARRA/Recovery-Act_for_Colorado(07-2009).pdf
4 Energy Information Administration, “Table 2. 2005 State Emissions by Sector” October 2008 http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/ggrpt/excel/tbl_statesector.xls
5 Energy Information Administration – State Energy Profiles, “Colorado” http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/state/state_energy_profiles.cfm?sid=CO