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Illinois and Texas Towns See Weatherization Boost

March 19, 2010 - 11:47am

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Like so many other towns, both Springfield, Ill., and Lubbock, Texas, have their share of people living in poorly insulated homes equipped with old, energy-wasting appliances and cracked siding. But now, with millions of dollars in Recovery Act funds going towards weatherization programs, more families will stay warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, and, most importantly, save money.

“It cropped about a hundred bucks off my bill in the cold, cold winter,” says Springfield resident Donald Dagget, a 78-year-old retired beauty salon owner who had his 1937, two-bedroom bungalow weatherized in October. “I was very thankful for that. Even though I’m in a house all paid for, I don’t have a lot of money.”

The Department of Community Resources in Sangamon County, Ill., where Donald lives, typically tackles about 95 homes a year with their $520,000 budget, but a 60 percent increase in weatherization funding will put that number around 320 this year.

Lubbock, Texas, which has $5 million available for weatherization programs from the Recovery Act, may not have to cope with freezing temperatures Illinois endures, but it certainly has its share of high winds and chilly nights.

“If the weather is cold and the wind is blowing….uhhh,” says Joe Rangel, the contract coordinator in the office of Community Development in Lubbock.  “Most homes that need the protection are in the city of Lubbock, older types that need some kind of work: windows, doors, insulations.”

Local service providers in Lubbock weatherized 45 homes last year with their funding, which was about $200,000.  This year, about 600 eligible residents who signed up will have their homes worked on because of the additional funds.  The Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program allows up to $6,500 in weatherization services per home for eligible families living at up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

“That list keeps increasing because people hear more and more about it,” says Joe, who hopes to get through the list over the next two years. “It’s a snowball effect.”

The projects are also putting more people to work in both areas.

Joe says 14 contracting companies in the area have been employed to perform the work, each with a crew of four or five. “One of the contractors added more people to the crew,” he says. “I can assume the rest are doing the same thing.” 

Sharmin Doering, the executive director for the weatherization program in Illinois’ Sangamon County, says that because of her county’s Recovery Act weatherization funds, the local firms hired to do the work have brought on 14 new workers.

Thanks to the workers who insulated his attic and retrofitted his water heater, Donald is seeing the financial benefits during the cold months in Illinois. His February heating bill went from $198 in 2009 to $100 this year.

“I’ve been very frugal all my life,” Donald says. “I could survive [without the weatherization], but I knew it was going to be difficult. You don’t throw money away”

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