Winters in Montana can be brutally cold, with temperatures frequently below zero, accompanied by strong, harsh winds. But thousands of Montana residents are staying warmer and paying less to do so this winter, thanks to funding from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Through the act, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) set up the Weatherization Assistance Program to weatherize the homes of low-income families.
The goal was to not only cut the cost low-income residents had to pay for energy over the long run, but to encourage job growth. Montana was awarded more than $26.5 million to implement the program across the state. Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently called Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer to congratulate his state – as he had Washington state – on having surpassed the department’s initial energy efficiency goals by weatherizing more than 6,800 homes.
Governor Schweitzer’s Warm Hearts Warm Homes program has weatherized more than 9,700 since the program began in 2005. “The additional federal funds have helped us weatherize another 6,800 homes,” Governor Brian Schweitzer said in a statement. “In total our efforts have weatherized more than 17,000 homes.”
Of the 6,800 homes weatherized with federal assistance, more than 3,300 homes were upgraded under the Recovery Act, far surpassing the state’s goal of 2,800 homes. Montana’s progress has been an important part of the Energy Department’s program nationally, which has completed upgrades on more than 750,000 homes across the country over the past three years. Nationwide, this is expected to save more than $400 million in just the first year. Homeowners in Montana are expected to save about $400 a month because of the upgrades.