Weatherization stimulus money affects areas economy positively
Government stimulus money represents a massive effort to pull the nation out of one of the worst economic downturns in recent memory. However, funding distribution has proven to be more difficult to track than was initially perceived.
In Carbon County, federal stimulus grants total around $13,446,000. Such funds have covered a diverse range of projects ranging from road construction to education. Many of these projects near completion and have been planned for years, but were accelerated due to the stimulus. Other such projects, however, are new. According to recovery.org, a federal government Web site designed to monitor the flow of stimulus spending, Utah, as a whole, received about $1,502,679,602. While much of the funding has already been used for projects, much of it has yet to be distributed.
One local project that has, so far, received $1,141,225 is a program in Price that provides weatherization for low income families' homes. While the money has been granted, if it can be spent within 18 months, another similar amount will continue.
"The money has had a big impact, because I've been able to hire double crews, with two more workers here and two in Mexican Hat," said Chris Rowley, weatherization program director.
In order for a family to qualify for the improvements, they must prove they are at 150 percent of poverty level. While the program has offices in Price, it also serves Emery, Grand and San Juan counties. Within the counties,
the homes of qualifying families must undergo an audit which assesses which actions need to be taken to increase efficiency.
While the program has been around for years, additional money has enabled the crews to do more when it comes to weatherizing houses, according to Rowley.
"The demand is about the same, (but) we've been able to see more clients and put more money into the individual homes," he said.
After the home audit is complete, the information is processed by a computer program which calculates what action can be taken for optimum effectiveness over a seven-year period. Improvements can range from new insulation, to weather stripping, and even new furnaces if old ones prove to be less efficient than is considered standard. Often, a combination of such improvements takes place. However, if a house contains lead-based paint, or knob- tube wiring, such conditions limit which actions can be taken.
Most of the federal money for the project has been distributed by the state of Utah. While funding beneficiaries have been very diverse, its priority has been to improve the local economy.
"We try to buy as locally as possible (for materials). Unless it's something specialized, then we have to order it," said Rowley.
In total, the program employs five people in Price and five in Mexican Hat. It applies primarily to housing, but also has offerings for apartments if landlords are willing to furnish some of the cost.