Update from Washington State: SustainableWorks secures Recovery grant.

Authors: Steve Gelb, Executive Director of SustainableWorks We have an exciting update from Washington State! A few months back, we reported on a major legislative victory for clean-energy jobs in Washington, thanks to deep community involvement and champions in the state legislature. 

The Washington State legislation (Senate Bill 5649) paved the way to create thousands of good, green-collar jobs, by designating that funds from the Recovery Act support energy-efficiency retrofit programs. This ground breaking legislation was passed because of the hard work of leaders in the Sound and Spokane Alliance. Green For All worked with community advocates and members of the legislature to ensure that the bill benefited community members and included job quality standards. Now, the application process for those funds is complete, and a great organization called SustainableWorks won a Recovery grant. Thanks to SB 5649 and Recovery Act funding, SustainableWorks will expand its work to facilitate energy-efficiency retrofits in moderate-income neighborhood. SustainableWorks already has experience pioneering retrofit projects in small commercial and residential buildings in Spokane, WA. It has proven that a highly trained workforce, paid family wages, can provide cost effective energy retrofit services. SustainableWorks is now a statewide non-profit pioneering neighborhood-based, large-scale energy efficiency projects. In addition to this experience, SustainableWorks is a good pick for Recovery funds because it is committed to providing quality jobs and opportunities for new workers to enter the workforce. The program requires that all contractors pay Washington State prevailing wages with benefits to all employees. It also requires that all contractors use at least 20% apprentices on its projects and that 25% of these apprentices must be new first-year apprentices. With the support of Electrical Workers, Plumbers and Pipefitters, Laborers, Sheet Metal Workers Unions and others, SustainableWorks has agreements to place individuals from underserved communities directly into apprentice programs that usually require a long waiting period. These unions have demonstrated their commitment to making the building trades accessible to all. SustainableWorks will require contracted employees to receive extensive training so that its workforce can perform energy retrofit work more efficiently than past models. This, combined with simplifying the process for consumers, will result in a program that can be sustainable for the long haul. The energy retrofit work SustainableWorks will do with Recovery funds is part of a continuum of programs to help low-income Washington residents reduce their energy costs through energy saving home retrofits. The Washington State Low Income Weatherization program performs free energy retrofits in low-income households. SustainableWorks will provide retrofits in moderate-income homes that don’t qualify for the low-income program. It will combine utility incentives and Recovery funding to make certain that the costs for the retrofits are covered up-front with low interest loans, and fully paid for over time with energy savings. 

SustainableWorks is also grounded in a community organizing model that is critical to reaching homeowners who are either unaware of energy savings opportunities or are not pursuing them because of the costs involved. SustainableWorks can reach these households and help them save energy, organizing one moderate-income neighborhood at a time. It is very exciting to see the next step in the process, as landmark legislation on the federal and state levels (the Recovery Act and SB 5649) begins to turn into jobs, opportunity, and environmental sustainability for people and communities in Washington State. For more stories of how the green economy is growing across the United States, see our new Green Economy Roadmap.

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