Vermont is receiving $15 million from the American Rescue Plan Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill to weatherize homes across the state, which will make homes more energy efficient and cost effective for Vermonters.

Congressman and Candidate for Senate Peter Welch joined housing advocates, homeowners and technicians in Burlington Wednesday, gathering outside a home undergoing weatherization services.

“So many of our homes have been built years ago before there were standards that were efficient,” said Rep. Welch. “The weatherization program changes that.”

Dwight Decoster, Weatherization Director with the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity says every home they improve cuts Vermonters’ energy use by 30 percent, saving homeowners money while reducing carbon emissions; a commitment set by the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act.

One customer says CVOEO’s program has helped a resident from Underhill live more comfortably in her home. “I’m here to thank all of you, especially to make my house warmer, especially more efficient and cooler in the summer.” said Jackie. “And I don’t have any of those drafts anymore, and I feel really good about doing this to be more efficient to help fight for climate change.”

Jackie says she has been a homeowner since she was 26 years old, living in many of Vermont’s outdated homes. Last year, she dealt with mold and mildew in the summer months and drafts during the fall and winter. But with CVEOE’s help, she doesn’t have these problems anymore.

But in order to serve homeowners, the state needs more trained professionals.

“I’m doing the math that we need to do on 90,000 homes that we need to do by 2030, and my math based on the numbers of 115 hours per house, that’s over 5,000 crew installers in addition to what we have now to meet Vermont’s goals,” said Decoster. “And you know, the labor crisis, it’s a crisis. We do not have enough folks.”

Executive Director of ReSOURCE Tom Longstreth says while the tight labor market is making it harder to get this important work done, it presents an opportunity for the state.

“It is allowing low income and disadvantaged individuals to gain skills and become gainfully employed,” said Longstreth. He helped developed what’s called a weatherization intensive that trains Vermonters to do this work. The program is modeled after its six-week construction intensive, which has been around for 16 years. Longstreth says nearly all program participants find employment shortly after training.

Coby Flanders has been with the Champlain Valley Weatherization service for four years and will spend about a week improving a home on Poplar Street in Burlington. “We call it the upward spiral that happens,” said Flanders, “when we go into someone’s home and fix it up, and they really start to make their life better.”