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Welch announces $15M for weatherization programs

Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 5:14 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont state officials are aiming to weatherize upwards of 90,000 additional homes by 2030 as part of the state’s efforts to combat climate change, but labor shortages pose a threat to achieving that landmark.

The Burlington City Council recently introduced a measure that would require landlords with extremely inefficient properties -- using 90,000 BTUs or greater -- to schedule weatherization work once they are notified. However, a lack of crews is leading to long wait times for anyone interested in getting the work done around the state.

“There just are not enough people coming out to do the job,” said Dwight DeCoster director of Champlain Valley Weatherization Service, part of The Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity. They are part of Vermont’s Weatherization Assistance Program, using funding from the state to help low-income Vermonters button up their homes.

His workers were busy at home Wednesday in the Old North End. Decoster says it takes about a week for one of his crews of three to four people to get that done, but significant staffing shortages are causing people to wait anywhere from six months to a year and a half to get the work done. “It makes me very nervous, honestly. I don’t know how we are going to do it at the rate we are going right now because I have more funding, I just don’t have the people to put it into the houses,” DeCoster said.

“They really tightened things up a lot and I also noticed my furnace didn’t kick on as often, so I’m able to heat primarily with wood,” said Jacci Alder of Underhill.

Alder joined Congressman Peter Welch Wednesday to talk about the benefits of weatherization Wednesday. Welch says Vermont is getting $15 million in federal funding for statewide weatherization programs. Welch touts the many benefits of weatherization from adding comfort, reducing carbon emissions, and saving Vermonters money, but also recognizes the challenges in the workforce.

“This has gotta be all hands on deck all the time, every day, every week, every month. We are committed but the transition challenges are immense,” Welch said.

Cody Flanders, a member of DeCoster’s crew, says it’s hard work but rewarding to know they are helping. “We just pick away at it. It’s a lot of people that need this help and we are getting out there, we are working year-round -- most people don’t think we do -- and we are just getting it down as much as we possibly can,” he said.

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