National Community Action Foundation: Focus on the future
This is an exciting and challenging time for community action agencies. Attendees at this year's NCAF Energy Leveraging conference were looking at the future from a different vantage point: a higher plateau of achievement.
According to conference speaker Bob Adams, Program Lead, U.S. Dept. of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program, "There were lots of skeptics and doubters who said that the weatherization network couldn't achieve the ARRA stimulus goals of weatherizing 30,000 homes per month. But you kept the promise: 1,700 community action agencies charged with implementing the Weatherization Assistance Program escalated production from 29,000 units in all of 2009, to over 30,000 per month in July 2010."
With the exception of revenue sharing projects, the WAP has been the 8th largest producer of jobs among 200 other ARRA-funded programs--25,000 full time workers in the Apr-June quarter alone. "The best part of celebrating", said Adams, "is to replicate and grow our successes."
But according to plenary speaker, LeAnn Oliver, Program Manager, with the U.S. Department of Energy's
Weatherization and Intergovernmental Programs, "Success isn’t just about making weatherization targets or saving energy. It's about saving money and putting people back to work."
For example, the Commission on Economic Opportunity, a community action agency based in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylyvania, added 28 staff, and 6 CEO subcontractors added 20 employees of their own. Plus, CEO's annual materials budget grew from $400,000 to $4 million, most of which was purchased from local suppliers.
Community action agencies have the potential to do even more. The market for weatherization technologies needs to be brought to scale, and weatherization measures must be made more affordable, in order to increase demand, from both subsidized low-income and middle-income households. Weatherization has helped to build the backbone for large scale retrofitting industry, and community action agencies are on the front lines of where the economy needs to go. As Bracken Hendricks, with the Center for American Progress stated in his address, "[community action] is one of the most important conversations in the country today!"
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