I remember listening to Obama on the campaign trail talking about green jobs and such. Always sounded cool. Then he got elected and talked about it more as part of the big stimulus bill. Then he got it passed. Now, the money is on the way. Its real, its green and its big and Massachusetts has a month to finalize its plan for ramping up its State Weatherization Assistance Program from spending about $7m or so a year to spending about $122m over the next two years.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act puts up $5 billion for weatherization programs – to be spent as soon as is possible. That is twenty times more than the $200m usually spent on weatherization annually. Talk about a step up, that’s a sea-change. Its estimated it could create upwards of 80,000 jobs nationationally and as Massachusetts gets a a big slug of the dough, should create thousands of jobs locally.
The State’s weatherization programs are run out of the Department of Housing and Community Development/Division of Community Services. They are holding a hearing on Tuesday (at DHCD headquarters over on Cambridge Street at 1:30 pm)this week to discuss their plans for using the funds – as posted here. The State needs to be able to show DOE it can ramp up effectively to get its full allocation. No small task that.
That is a lot of money to spend in a short amount of time so I’m kind of interested in how DHCD will achieve it. This is the great challenge of the stimulus bill – getting the huge amount of money from Congress, through the agencies, out to the States, through the planning and application stage (and the Obama requirements on transparency and performance add some extra steps), then into the hands of local non-profits and businesses that actually deliver. Massachusetts helped 6500 low-income households get their homes retrofitted in 2006. With the funding increasing exponentially we can help tens of thousands more – and now.
I guess what also comes to mind is what happens when all the stimulus money is spent? The weatherization improvements will save money for people for years to come but what happens to the jobs? Hopefully, the economy has picked back up and weatherizers can get reemployed other places when growth returns. But, maybe we should keep some of the money for weatherization flowing even after the economy improves. Its not like Massachusetts won’t need to keep doing it.
In any event, the green is flowing for green jobs and green homes. Obama talked about it and now its happening. Its time to weatherize.