HYDE PARK /Massachusetts Newswire/ — With winter fast approaching, Governor Deval Patrick today joined community action groups and representatives from statewide utility companies to promote the Energy Bucks initiative, a collaborative campaign to build awareness about the fuel assistance, discount rates and energy efficiency services available to working families throughout the Commonwealth.
“In tough economic times, as temperatures drop, people get anxious about home heating bills and the costs that come along with the cold,” said Governor Patrick. “But everyone should know that they are not alone and help is out there. That’s what the Energy Bucks program is all about – making people aware of the resources that can save them money and keep them warm this winter.”
Energy Bucks, now in its seventh year, is sponsored by Massachusetts utility companies and promotes programs that fall into several categories:
•Fuel Assistance: Subsidies to reduce the price residents pay for energy services. Fuel assistance money is provided through the Department of Housing and Community Development’s LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance) program which is funneled through the state to the local community action programs. For more information, call 1-800-632-8175 or visit www.mass.gov/dhcd.
•Utility Discount Rates: Discounted rates that lower what residents are charged for the energy they use. Utility discounts are provided through the state utility companies and are calculated per person.
•Energy Efficiency Services: Weatherization services that make homes more energy efficient, thereby reducing total energy needs. Energy efficiency services are a combination of federal, state and utility money.
In addition to highlighting the availability of these resources, the Governor also joined a weatherization team at the Hyde Park home of Yvonne Spencer, a 66-year-old retired Hyde Park home owner who qualified for weatherization services, including insulation in the attic and walls, worth more than $5,000. These services were provided at no cost to the homeowner, and will reduce Ms. Spencer’s monthly utility costs by cutting the total energy needs of her household through increased efficiency.
“I am excited to have this work done on my home and especially my kitchen because every time I go to cook I feel cold air on my legs,” said Yvonne Spencer. “People may not think they are eligible, but there are so many ways they can save and it is very easy.”
To date, Massachusetts has received $122 million in weatherization funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Patrick-Murray Administration will use these funds over the next three years to improve energy efficiency in nearly 17,000 low-income homes. The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has allocated approximately $17 million of these funds to weatherization agencies, resulting in over 140 new jobs and the weatherization of over 500 units, with an additional 1100 expected by the end of 2009. This process averages $4,500 per home weatherized, which includes air sealing, attic and sidewall insulation, repairs and window replacements.
“These Recovery Act weatherization funds for low-income households give an added boost to the Commonwealth’s already ambitious energy efficiency plans,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles. “Under Governor Patrick, Massachusetts has launched the most extensive energy efficiency program in the nation – a three year, $2 billion investment through electric and natural gas utilities that will yield a remarkable $6.5 billion in savings for consumers.”
Energy Bucks is a partnership of National Grid, NSTAR Electric & Gas, Unitil, Western Massachusetts Electric Company, Bay State Gas and the Cape Light Compact in collaboration with the Massachusetts Association for Community Action (MASSCAP) and the Low-Income Energy Affordability Network (LEAN). More than 800,000 households in Massachusetts qualify for at least one Energy Bucks program, but less than 30 percent participate. A family of four with an income of $900 or less a week qualifies, and families can save up to 30 percent a year on energy bills.
“Working together, we are helping people in need deal with the high cost of energy this year and beyond,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “Weatherization is the gift that keeps on giving by keeping local families warm in the winter months and lowering utility bills for years to come.”
“With the high rate of unemployment and the financial strain of the holidays, this winter is going to be terribly difficult for low-income and working families, and the elderly trying to heat their homes,” said John Drew, ABCD president and chief executive officer. “Before temperatures drop even more and frigid weather sets in, we want to spread the word that help is available so that families can stay warm.”
“Given the state of the economy, many people may struggle with their energy costs this winter,” said Timothy Stout, vice president of energy efficiency, National Grid. “The Energy Bucks initiative brings utilities and communities together to simultaneously offer fuel assistance, information on discount rates and energy efficiency services for those who may need help in coping with challenging energy bills. We are pleased to be a part of this vital resource and urge our customers who may need help to visit www.energybucks.com to learn more.”
“Many people go without help simply because they don’t know about all the great programs available to them,” said Penni Conner, vice president of customer care for NSTAR. “The Energy Bucks campaign provides us with an additional outlet for showing customers how to be more energy efficient and also save significantly on their bills with our discount rates.”
For information on applying, please contact ABCD in Boston at 617-357-6000. To find out more about Energy Bucks or to contact other Community Action Programs visit www.energybucks.com or call 1-866-LESS-COST.
Weatherization and energy savings initiatives are critical components of Governor Patrick’s Massachusetts Recovery Plan, which combines state, federal and, where possible, private efforts to provide immediate and long-term relief and position the Commonwealth for recovery in the following ways:
•Deliver immediate relief by investing in the road, bridge and rail projects that put people to work today and providing safety net services that sustain people who are especially vulnerable during an economic crisis;
•Build a better tomorrow through education and infrastructure investments that strengthen our economic competitiveness, prepare workers for the jobs of the future and support clean energy, broadband and technology projects that cut costs while growing the economy; and
•Reform state government by eliminating the pension and ethics loopholes that discredit the work of government and revitalize the transportation networks that have suffered from decades of neglect and inaction.