The Times Argus’ 1/26/21 article Warm Wishes provides an overview of weatherization funding in Governor Scott’s proposed budget, and the work of the EAN supported Weatherization at Scale action team.
Warm Wishes – Times Argus Editorial
Given the fiscal challenges facing the state, we commend the governor for putting forth a budget that touches upon factors that matter to many Vermonters. It would seem that, despite coronavirus and the most divisive political climate in the modern age, this governor and his administration have been listening.
And they seem to be willing to work with Democrats and progressives to make a difference for Vermont communities.
One area that caught our eye was Gov. Phil Scott’s attention to weatherization. Now it would seem obvious that the governor. with expertise in construction. would have placed greater emphasis on weatherization in the past. Vermont has some of the oldest housing stock in the nation, and Scott, a Republican, is all about making and keeping jobs in Vermont. Weatherization seems like an industry in Vermont that would be seemingly endless.
And while his administration has put forth proposals in the past, and legislators have fought long and hard over whether more or less should be added or taken away, Scott made a strong commitment to Vermonters — many who find themselves struggling to pay heating bills at this very moment.
“Weatherization is an area where we’ve had a lot of agreement but not enough funding,” the governor said in Tuesday’s budget address.
“Our current programs help families and municipalities reduce energy costs, improve housing and move us towards our carbon emissions goals. So I propose investing an additional $20 million to accelerate weatherization of homes for low- and moderate-income families, and — through the Vermont Housing Finance Agency — add private funding to expand the reach of these programs.”
He said his administration would propose another $5 million for the State Energy Management Program to help towns make efficiency upgrades that will save taxpayers money down the road.
In total, Scott said, “we believe this $25 million package will generate nearly $70 million in weatherization projects and significantly increase the number of homes we weatherize.”
Within minutes, housing advocates were applauding that effort.
“We are grateful to Governor Scott for making this significant investment in home affordability through weatherization,” said Maura Collins, executive director of the Vermont Housing Finance Authority. “This proposal will make a meaningful impact for thousands of families for years to come. VHFA intends to maximize the use of these state dollars, and seek additional federal monies, to invest in communities across Vermont. By working with our weatherization partners on the front lines, VHFA can deploy flexible funding to make home improvements quickly and effectively, support small contractors and lift up our neighborhoods, especially in rural areas of Vermont.”
Similarly, Neale Lunderville, president and CEO of Vermont Gas, was quoted in the same news release as Collins.
“We applaud Governor Scott’s proposal — it’s a game-changer for weatherization in Vermont,” said Lunderville, a former Republican operative who has played roles in recent Republican administrations. “This proposal is innovative, actionable — and sets the framework for future funding opportunities. All Vermonters, regardless of their socio-economic status, deserve an affordable, comfortable and healthy home, and weatherization is a way to achieve greater energy equity in our state. Weatherization improvements have the added benefit of increasing home values that, over time, will help more Vermonters build wealth.”
Housing advocates, utilities, community action agencies all on the same side?
Yes, and in large part because of work initiated by the Energy Action Network, which has challenged collaborative teams to explore creative solutions to tough energy challenges, including weatherization at scale.
EAN members include Efficiency Vermont, Energy Futures Group, NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, Regulatory Assistance Project, Vermont Natural Resources Council, Vermont Public Power Supply Authority, environmental groups, health care organizations, legislators, and individuals with expertise in energy finance, environmental law and other disciplines.
That is a whole lot of brain power — and resources — being put into coming up with a solution that helps create jobs, warmer homes and steps told a more robust economy.
Warmer homes make for warmer hearts. And the governor’s commitment toward weatherization is one way to keep Vermont moving in the right direction despite the chill in the air.