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Federal Grant Helps Keep Utilities Affordable

September 21, 2011

DENVER - One federally funded program is exceeding expectations - and that translates into lower energy bills for some of the neediest Coloradans.

The Colorado Weatherization Assistance Program is entering its third year. The program, funded through federal stimulus dollars, has spent more than $40 million in the past 26 months to improve energy efficiency in more than 11,000 Colorado low-income households.

One of the program's beneficiaries is the Corona Residences in Denver. Jeff Martinez, vice president of Brothers Redevelopment, the group which manages the property, says his tenants are ecstatic.

"Some of them joke about it, even saying, 'Well, how am I going to pay this $10 bill?' They've seen some great improvements."

On average, according to the Governor's Energy Office (GEO), utility bills are a quarter less than before the renovations.

The improvements at the Corona Residences and other multi-family complexes were administered by Energy Outreach Colorado. Its deputy director, Jennifer Gremmert, says it plans to help fix another 1,000 low-income units between now and March.

"We determine the most cost-effective measures that are going to improve the building itself, but also reduce the energy bills, improve the health and safety for the tenants, and improve the overall comfort."

Martinez doubts Brothers Redevelopment would have been able to afford all of the improvements without the assistance.

"We're always looking to upgrade our properties, to make sure that they're livable, comfortable, secure. But without this funding, it would have been much more difficult and it might have taken us a lot more time to get those improvements completed."

The initial proposal was that about 10,000 low-income homes and apartments would be renovated with the stimulus funds. Now, the GEO reports, it plans to help nearly 16,000 households by the time the funding runs out in March 2012.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO