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Weatherization assistance program reaches goal

Minnesota's Weatherization Assistance Program has exceeded its goal of weatherizing 16,858 homes using $132 million in stimulus funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The program, administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, not only surpassed its goal set by DOE, but achieved its milestone well before the March 2012 deadline and did it by spending less than its grant total.

From April 2009 to June 30, the weatherization program served 17,153 Minnesota households using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Roughly $16 million in ARRA funds remain and will be used to weatherize about 2,000 to 2,500 additional homes by March 31, 2012. Nationally, as of June 30, 2011, more than 484,000 homes have been weatherized using nearly $3.3 billion in ARRA funds, according to DOE.

"Our Division of Energy Resources has been vigilant in using every stimulus dollar effectively, delivering jobs, energy savings and results to families and communities served by this important program," said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. "The one-time, strategic investment made in the program by ARRA will permanently reduce the cost of heating and cooling tens of thousands of Minnesota homes, providing a significant economic benefit to our state."

Minnesota's weatherization program enables low-income families to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient with weatherization work such as exterior wall and attic insulation, air sealing, and repairs or replacement of home heating systems.

"We were among the first states in the nation to reach our ARRA weatherization goal," said Bill Grant, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources. "Reaching this milestone in a timely and efficient manner is a tribute to our Weatherization Assistance Program staff and the 31 service providers around the state who implement the services."

The impact of the program has been significant, and it will be felt for years to come. Households that received weatherization will save energy and see their energy bills decrease substantially--many by one third to one half. The annual average savings per household is estimated at $400.

In addition, the weatherization work has had a significant impact on Minnesota's economy. Estimates show that ARRA dollars administered for weatherization created or retained about 500 full-time equivalent jobs each quarter over the last two years in Minnesota.

A University of Minnesota Extension study found that for every direct job funded by the program, an additional three-quarters of a job was created in the private sector in the state. The study also concluded that each dollar spent on weatherization generated an additional $1.09, on average, of economic activity in Minnesota. For every dollar earned by a weatherization worker, an additional 86 cents was earned by workers in other state industries.

"In a normal year, our state Weatherization Assistance Program would weatherize about 3,000 homes, but the federal stimulus funding allowed for greatly expanded service," said Marilou Cheple, supervisor of the program. "It was a welcome opportunity, because the need for energy efficiency upgrades is huge, especially among the low-income homes we serve. Our local service providers have met the challenge to ramp up service and have done it with quality."

Weatherization assistance is available to homeowners and renters who are at or below 200 percent of Federal Poverty Income Guidelines ($44,700 for a family of four) and who have qualified for Energy Assistance. Priority for weatherization assistance is given to households with at least one elderly person, one disabled member, families with children under age 19, and to those with the highest heating costs. Eligible households receive an energy audit to determine cost-effective measures to meet the needs of each home.

"The ARRA-funded weatherization is a win-win-win situation," said Cheple. "It saves energy and reduces energy bills, reduces our carbon footprint, and stimulated the economy when the state needed it most. There's also the prospect that the enhanced weatherization skills developed by our contractors may be applied to a home retrofit market in the private sector--beyond the low-income households we serve."

Five billion dollars in federal stimulus funds were allocated to states nationwide in 2009, with the goal of serving 600,000 households with weatherization services by March 31, 2012.

For more information on the state's Weatherization Assistance Program, please visit (click on "low income assistance") or call 651-296-5175 or 800-657-3710.