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Stimulus $$$ for weatherization, green jobs

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced it’s providing more than $74 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus plan to expand home weatherization aid programs in California.

This is only 40 percent of California’s eventual share: The state received 10 percent in March for training and ramp-up activities, and it’ll get the other half after demonstrating successful implementation of its plan to weatherize more than 50,000 homes, thus lowering energy costs for low-income families, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating green jobs. In the end, California’s funding is expected to exceed $185 million, of which up to 20 percent can be spent to hire and train workers.

The Weatherization Assistance Program will be available to families making up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, about $44,000 a year for a family of four; these families will see an estimated average of 32 percent for heating bills and savings of hundreds of dollars per year on overall energy bills, according to the Energy Department. States will spend about $6,500 to weatherize each home.

In California, more than 50 non-profits, local governments and community groups will do the work, using national auditing tools to examine homes and determine what’s needed; the state will also require that a third party inspect all weatherized properties, measuring performance based on the work’s quality and speed. And the state will follow the recommendations of the California Green Collar Jobs Council by employing members of the California Conservation Corps, YouthBuild, and other youth employment groups; outreach for the program will be done by canvassing neighborhoods, local advertising, and cooperating with landlords and property managers.

California was among 15 states with funding announced today; more than $453 million is being delivered across the nation.

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Local agencies get ‘YouthBuild’ federal funds

Three local agencies have landed grants from the U.S. Department of Labor’s YouthBuild program, which helps out-of-school youth get their diplomas or GEDs while providing occupational training in the construction industry to build and renovate affordable housing within their communities.

The Youth Employment Partnership in Oakland gets $675,000; the City of Richmond Employment and Training Department gets $687,500; and the San Joaquin County Office of Education in Stockton gets $687,500. All of them seem to have received funding through this program at some point in the past.

Overall, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced about $114 million granted to 183 community groups this past weekend; that’s an initial increment for two years of grant operations, and more might be awarded if money becomes available. Of the 183, 62 were current YouthBuild grantees and 121 were new. The awards include about $47 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic-stimulus funding, although the Oakland, Richmond and Stockton projects received regular funding.

YouthBuild participants include those who have been in the juvenile justice system, youth aging out of foster care, high school dropouts and others. Besides getting academic and occupational skills training, they develop leadership skills and take part in community service opportunities. Many learn green building techniques by helping to retrofit existing homes, learning to make their communities sustainable and environmentally friendly. YouthBuild was transferred by Congress from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Labor Department in 2006, and it’s being revamped to include what the Labor Department describes as “a rigorous randomized control trial evaluation of the YouthBuild program to learn more about its impact on the disadvantaged youth it serves.”