Burlington Electric Department yesterday was awarded a $550,000 CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The grant will be used to capitalize and administer a new revolving loan fund (RLF) that will complement an existing RLF to provide loans to coronavirus-impacted businesses in Burlington to help them make building ventilation and energy efficiency improvements.
“This grant will provide new resources to help Burlington emerge from the pandemic as an even stronger and more just community,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “We will distribute these funds in a way that supports our local economic recovery, includes targeted outreach to BIPOC-owned businesses, and strengthens our transition to becoming a Net Zero Energy city. I am grateful to Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders, and Congressman Welch for helping to secure these impactful funds for Burlington, and to the team at Burlington Electric Department for pursuing this grant for our community.”
The EDA funding will be used to support improvements to building ventilation necessary to meet COVID-19 public health guidelines, including upgrades to more efficient heating and cooling equipment (like the installation of cold-climate heat pump systems), expansion of duct work distribution systems, and implementation of additional heating and cooling measures. The grant also will be used to support small businesses and non-profit organizations that are faced with replacing failing or near-end-of-life equipment with more efficient equipment, including refrigeration, cooking, heating and cooling, and lighting.
“If a heating or cooling system or refrigeration equipment fails during this challenging economic time, the funding announced today will help our small business and non-profit customers invest in energy efficient replacements that are cost-effective,” said Darren Springer, General Manager of Burlington Electric Department. “This grant award will complement and enhance our new Green Stimulus program and support economic recovery for Burlington. We greatly appreciate our continued partnership with the Economic Development Administration and sincerely thank our Congressional Delegation for their ongoing support of Burlington Electric Department’s energy efficiency programs.”
EDA Grant Complements Green Stimulus Program and Existing Revolving Loan Fund
In May 2020, BED launched a Green Stimulus package to support local economic recovery and advance projects that support Burlington’s Net Zero Energy city goal. The Green Stimulus includes numerous incentives, as well as loan programs to support residential customers with strategic electrification and energy efficiency projects, including cold-climate heat pump installations, energy efficient appliance purchases, and weatherization efforts. The Green Stimulus also focuses on supporting energy efficiency and weatherization in both multi-family buildings and affordable housing. Particularly relevant to the EDA award, as part of the Green Stimulus, BED currently is offering zero-percent loans and additional incentives for small business and non-profit customers to support energy efficiency upgrades, and to help replace failing heating and cooling equipment with energy efficient options during a challenging economic time.
BED already administers an RLF for small business, non-profit organizations, and other commercial customers that originally was capitalized through a previous EDA award in 2012. Through that original award and matching BED funds, BED has loaned approximately $870,000 cumulatively to support cost-effective energy efficiency investments, such as advanced lighting and refrigeration equipment for commercial customers in Burlington. Under the original EDA grant, program participants are estimated to save approximately $143,000 annually in energy costs, which translates to more than $2.13 million over the lifetime of the energy-saving improvements.
One loan recipient from the original RLF was the City’s Fletcher Free Library (FFL), which received funds for energy efficiency improvements. BED provides for on-bill financing (OBF), through which borrowing customers make monthly loan repayments as part of paying their electric bills. “We are fortunate at Fletcher Free Library to have received funding through BED’s revolving loan fund that allowed us to install energy efficient lighting and controls, as well as implement HVAC upgrades,” stated Mary Danko, FFL Director. “The efficiency improvements continue to bring tremendous benefit and, as a public building that welcomes everyone, our library serves as an example for our entire community of how energy efficiency contributes to comfort and quality of space.
The new EDA funding award likewise will utilize OBF and further bolster BED’s available energy efficiency loan programs for small business and non-profit organization customers, helping them adopt a wider range of technologies that advance the City’s Net Zero Energy work, including heat pumps. Due to the emergency nature of the new funding, no local match is required. The award period is two years, and the expectation from EDA is that BED will make at least one loan per quarter. BED will seek City Council approval to accept the grant award at its August 24, 2020 meeting.
EDA Grant Will Support Economic Recovery in BIPOC Communities
While administering the new funds consistent with the EDA goal to swiftly support economic recovery, BED also will implement the program in a manner consistent with Mayor Weinberger’s Eight Point Plan to Protect BIPOC Communities and Ensure a Racially Just Recovery. BED will be working with the Burlington Resource and Recovery Center, the City’s Office of Racial Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, and the Church Street Marketplace to discuss ways to assist eligible businesses and organizations and to ensure that they are aware of this new funding opportunity.
“I cannot think of a tougher time for a business to have critical equipment, like a refrigerator, fail, and this new loan program will ensure that an efficient replacement is affordable,” stated Kara Alnasrawi, Director of Business Support for the City of Burlington. “I also appreciate that this program will support businesses as they handle the need for adequate ventilation to address public health concerns. I am excited to help all Burlington businesses benefit from this new program.”
BED’s EDA grant was part of a total $2.1 million award in federal CARES Act funds in Vermont. In addition to BED’s $550,000 award, the EDA awarded $1 million to Vermont Community Loan Fund Inc. in Montpelier to provide loans to coronavirus-impacted small businesses in Caledonia, Essex, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille and Orleans counties and $550,000 to Springfield Regional Development Corporation in Springfield to provide loans to coronavirus-impacted small businesses in the southern Windsor County Vermont towns of Andover, Baltimore, Cavendish, Chester, Ludlow, Reading, Springfield, Weathersfield, West Windsor, and Windsor.