Building a New Weatherization Program in Wisconsin

September 30, 2009 -- Citizen Action of Wisconsin Educati...

by Pam Fendt, GJLN Coordinator

The Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods Project of Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund is working with the Wisconsin Laborers District Council and the Laborers Great Lakes Region Organizing Committee on a campaign to shape Wisconsin’s expanded weatherization program.

Residential weatherization programs for low-income households have been going on for decades, but funding will be greatly increased through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  Wisconsin’s usual annual funding for weatherization work is $15 million.  An additional $141 million will flow to the state from ARRA. The Weatherization Assistance Program is conducted through Community Action Program (CAP) agencies in cities across the country, using their own in-house crews and through bids from contractors.  States have a lot at stake relative to the expectations around stimulus funding.  GJLN’s goal is to help Wisconsin state officials see the community-labor program we are putting together as the solution to their challenges to create jobs and spend recovery funds wisely.

LIUNA is engaging in a national campaign to vie for market share in the expanded weatherization field. This infusion of recovery funds creates opportunities for Laborers and GJLN to engage in a Wisconsin residential weatherization campaign that ensures that low-income workers in Milwaukee and across the state have access to high quality jobs in the construction industry as part of a new weatherization workforce, and that the newly emerging weatherization industry is structured by job quality standards that create good union jobs with benefits.

“Weatherization can be a stepping stone to a long-term career in the construction industry,” notes John Schmitt, business manager for Laborers 113 in Milwaukee. “We have hundreds of minority applicants for apprenticeships with the Laborers. Through this project we should be able to move more people into work more quickly. The funding will really stimulate employment.”

The next frontier after the Weatherization Assistance Program market is looking at the other funding streams and emerging new models such as “on-bill” programs that will allow individual homeowners to weatherize their home and pay the costs back out of the savings on their utility bills.  Milwaukee has an on-bill pilot project called ME2 that has been in the development stage for over a year. Getting the parameters of this new industry right now could affect a lot of work opportunities in the future. 

For more information, contact Pam Fendt, GJLN Project Coordinator at pam.fendt@citizenactionwi.org  or 414-476-4501.

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