Stimulus cutting family energy bills, fueling jobs
Roy » Amanda Limburg is already seeing the benefit of her new double-paned windows and furnace: She and her husband pay $20 less on the monthly heating bill.
"That was really exciting to see," said Limburg, who received the upgraded appliances as part of an energy-efficiency program that's received double its funding through last year's federal stimulus package.
The Tri-County Weatherization Program installs new appliances, such as water heaters and furnaces, or insulates Davis, Morgan and Weber county homes so that people can use less energy to keep their homes warm and save money.
"It's one of those programs where if you invest money into it, you see a return across the board," said Tri-County director Ian Spangenberg, noting energy-efficient appliances help conserve resources and keep power companies from having to spend on expanding their facilities.
Spangenberg's yearly budget for the weatherization program has basically grown more than two-thirds larger than its original size, thanks to a four-year grant of $5.3 million from stimulus dollars approved a year ago. With the extra money, Spangenberg recently hired the 16th person in what will become an 18-person staff. Also, some of the extra money went to building office and storage space in a new state weatherization training center being built in Clearfield.
Last year, there was a nine-member crew that was able to weatherize about 12 homes each month, Spangenberg said. That caused a backlog of year-long waits for many people.
With the extra crews, 25 homes now are weatherized each month. But recently, the requirements to qualify for upgrades to fixtures and appliances expanded to include more people. With that increased interest, Spangenberg acknowledged delays of a year are still typical.
"I completely forgot about it," said Limburg, who applied to have her Roy home weatherized around a year and a half ago. As a stay-at-home mother to three children, Limburg considers it her duty to find ways to stretch her husband's salary.
But the weatherization effort wasn't welcomed with praise when she told her mother about it.
"She's just, 'Ugh, you know I'm paying for that,' " Limburg said of her mother's disapproval of taxpayer dollars to the federal stimulus. "She kind of sees it differently than I do."
Limburg said even if she didn't qualify for the program -- those eligible can make up to 150 percent of the income set by federal poverty guidelines -- she would still be in favor of it.
"It can help a lot of families out," Limburg said. "Even to help with the monthly bills -- just to cut those down helps a lot. ... It's good that they're giving work to other people as well."
Most of the people Spangenberg has hired have come from the construction field -- one of the hardest hit by the recession.
"I was unemployed for about a year," said Jimmy Vega, who was recently training at another Weber County home that needed a new water heater.
The Bountiful resident had been a carpenter and was hired after stimulus money came in, even though he had applied earlier.
"But they gave that job to him," he joked, pointing at Brent Holmes, who also was training. Holmes is working to become a specialist who performs energy audits on homes and helps teach residents about energy efficiency.
Holmes, from North Salt Lake, looked for a job on the weatherization team after his hard-wood flooring business slowed.
"Just in the month that I've been here, I really enjoy it," Holmes said. "It's a program that really helps people out. There's a lot of satisfaction in it."
Senior services in Davis County have received a total of $64,506 in stimulus dollars.
» The health department's senior citizen program received a one-year infusion for its meals programs, which include food served in senior centers and meals delivered to residences.
» Senior Community Service Employment got a boost of more than $18,000.