Jean Marie Hill, executive director for Warren Washington Issaquena Sharkey Community Action Agency, is happy to report her organization has doubled the amount of homes weatherized in a year since Recovery Act funds came to Mississippi. She will also tell you that she's glad WWISCAA can spend twice the amount of money to weatherize each home, from about $3,000 to $6,500.
But what she really gets excited about is the job numbers.
WWISCAA has gone from three contractors to 12 contractors, and the organization is helping out local businesses by purchasing equipment to weatherize the homes in the 13 counties it oversees.
Her own staff has even increased—from two people to 14 in order to handle the jump in weatherization projects.
"It has made a difference, and it has, in so many ways, been good for the economy in this area," says Hill, who has been with the organization for the last 28 years. "That's nine more contractors, who all have their own employees, getting money in their pockets."
"And we have heard from vendors that say that all this additional work has kept their doors open," she adds.
WWISCAA weatherized 424 homes of eligible, low-income residents from April 2009 to March 2010, according to Hill. That's more than twice what they did the prior year.
And now, because of increased funds to the Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program, agencies throughout the country, including WWISCAA, can spend up to $6,500 per home for energy upgrades.
"The program was a good program," Hill says, "but it has become a better program; it has improved with these funds."
Hill's territory isn't the only area in the Magnolia State that's seeing a boost in homes weatherized and jobs.
After the Mississippi Department of Human Services was awarded nearly $25 million through the Recovery Act, officials say nearly 3,000 homes were weatherized and 500 workers were hired to perform the work across the state.
Sollie Norwood, a director in the Mississippi Department of Human Services, says the department originally determined the local service providers throughout the state would need 150 workers to weatherize the 30 percent goal of the total target of homes, but ended up needing an extra 350.
"We looked at the number of units we were expected to weatherize and divided out the man power to each agency," he says.
With a total target of 5,400 homes, Mississippi has reached beyond the 30 percent mark, completing 2,900 homes, more than 50 percent of the total target.
This milestone, stipulated by the DOE, makes additional Recovery Act funds available to the state, an additional $25 million.
These services will help cut energy consumption for income-eligible residents across the state.
"When you look at what a client paid 12 months before and then the 12 months after, there is a significant savings," Hill says. "And they are lot more comfortable."