A new kind of organizing - using Recovery funds in Florida

Authors: Joe Naroditsky

Joe Naroditsky is a Green For All Academy Fellow, and the Executive director of Faiths United for Sustainable Energy (FUSE), an interfaith, non partisan, nonprofit organization whichmobilizes faith and spiritual leaders in the movement toward clean and sustainable energy throughout the State of Florida.

Crossposted on the FUSE blog

It's amazing what a little money can do.

As soon as the Obama Billions from the stimulus package started to trickle down, community groups around the nation began to mobilize with a new found zeal. All of a sudden, programs parched by decades of under-funding are springing to life – the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which has had an average yearly budget of roughly $200 million just received a whopping $5 billion.

That money, however, isn’t flowing as freely as it needs to. In this case, state and local agencies which renovate the homes of families with low incomes to be more energy efficient and thus more affordable to live in, are simply overwhelmed.

In Miami, Florida – my hometown – the local agency providing weatherization assistance employs two full-time employees and weatherized fewer than 100 homes last year. Now, they have the funds to retrofit 3,000-4,000 homes.

This is going to require a new kind of organizing. State and local agencies are not used to having this much money and they’re not used to thinking outside the box in order to spend it. With the carrot of stimulus dollars dangling, the caveat is the money must be spent within two years – a requirement that, at current capacity, no agency in the country will be able to meet.

We need to seize this moment and this opportunity – we’re no longer the powerless, moneyless minority and we need to be prepared and ready for our own success. The stimulus money sent a clear message – this is an administration that will serve the people and society first, but it's up to us on the ground to make sure that investment is spent in an equitable and just manner.

Those of us working on behalf of the public’s highest interest, on behalf of those who have been left out, and on the side of equity and justice, must be at the table to define and create our collective future. Community groups should engage the local agencies that are tasked to spend stimulus dollars and create new collaborations and partnerships that will maximize our communities’ abilities to benefit from this new green wave. We need to bring together existing groups and programs doing job training, involve local contractors and other employers, and engage government officials to create robust and successful green jobs programs that will lay the foundation for future investments in the green economy.

This is starting to take root here in Florida. I’m a proud member of a new coalition in Tampa called Green Jobs for the People – a collaborative of the local Community Development Corporation, the local agency in charge of the weatherization program, and other grassroots community groups. We are calling to incorporate green collar jobs training and pathways out of poverty programs into the city of Tampa’s plans to use stimulus dollars, and to plan for the long term development of an inclusive and equitable green economy. You can learn a little more about our work by reading this article and listening to this interview done by a local radio news program.

Green For All is right when they say that now is the time to move from hope to change, from inspiration to implementation. This is just the beginning. Let’s bring home a green recovery for all.

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