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Gillibrand backs funding hike for weatherization

Senator highlights savings during Schenectady visit

Friday, January 25, 2013
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U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announces her support for the Weatherization Assistance Program at Schenectady Community Action on Friday, January 25, 2013. To the left is Rotterdam homeowner Debbie Dynysiuk and to the right is Julie Hoxsie, executive director of Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announces her support for the Weatherization Assistance Program at Schenectady Community Action on Friday, January 25, 2013. To the left is Rotterdam homeowner Debbie Dynysiuk and to the right is Julie Hoxsie, executive director of Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council.

— Debbie Dynysiuk of Rotterdam saved money when she got a new furnace, water heater and doors through the Weatherization Assistance Program.

In the first month after the upgrades, Dynysiuk said her monthly utility bill dropped from $400 to $280. She is eager to see more savings during the cold winter months.

“I’m hoping to see a lot less this winter because I can definitely feel the difference in my home,” she said.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said she wants to help more people like Dynysiuk, but funding for the program has been drastically cut during the past few years. She is asking President Barack Obama to include in his budget proposal $210 million for the Weatherization Association Program and $50 million for the State Energy Program, which provides funding for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to support long-term energy planning and research.

Currently, funding for the weatherization program is less than $100 million.

“For a lot of families, they are choosing between heating their homes, buying medicine or feeding their kids,” Gillibrand said Friday during a visit to the Schenectady Community Action Partnership on Albany Street.

New Yorkers pay an average of $2,400 per year in energy costs, which Gillibrand said is higher than the national average of $1,800. When homes are weatherized, owners can save as much as $400 a year, according to Gillibrand.

These energy efficient upgrades can last for decades. Also, the spending benefits the economy by paying workers to make the upgrades. It is estimated that each dollar spent on weatherization yields more than $2.50 for the community.

“This kind of program puts an enormous amount of dollars into the economy and helps the people who need it the most,” Gillibrand said.

Julie Hoxsie, executive director of the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council, said these programs can help low- and moderate-income people. The income limit is $49,332 for a family of four.

Her agency administers the program for residents in Saratoga and Schenectady counties. Last year, it weatherized 229 households, resulting in an average savings of 35 percent in energy costs, or about $650 per year.

However, officials say current funding would mean that more than 100 fewer owners and renters can benefit from the program this year.

Schenectady County residents seeking information on weatherization should contact SCAP at 374-2221. Saratoga County residents can apply at the county Economic Opportunity Council office at 40 New St. in Saratoga Springs or by calling 587-3158.

Gillibrand also stopped by the City Mission of Schenectady to meet with shelter residents. U.S. Rep Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who also attended, said he would write a letter to the House Appropriations Committee to seek inclusion of this funding and offer an amendment to the budget.

Tonko said it is about social, economic and environmental justice.

“Poor households pay a huge percentage of their budget on energy,” he said.

 
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