Tom Perriello: Job growth

Column by Tom Perriello

Last week, we received some encouraging news as the Department of Labor announced that the economy added 290,000 jobs in the month of April – 231,000 of them in the private sector. This is the largest number of new jobs in four years and the fourth consecutive month of job growth.

We have come a long way over the past year, though there is much more to be done. During the first months of last year our economy lost an average of 750,000 jobs each month. In the first few months of this year, the economy has created nearly 500,000 new private sector jobs. But there’s still a long way to go to replace the nearly 8 million jobs that America lost over the last decade.

While I’m encouraged by these signs of job growth, I am not nearly satisfied. The unemployment rate remains unacceptably high, especially in Southern and Central Virginia, which is why I have stayed focused for over a year on creating jobs in construction, clean energy, and support for small business.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed an important bill to create American jobs and help working families save some money on their energy bills. I was proud to help lead the bipartisan victory on H.R. 5019, the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act, a short-term program that will restart the assembly lines at factories that manufacture energy efficiency technologies and put construction workers back on the job installing these improvements in the homes of millions of American families.

Home Star, sometimes called “Cash for Caulkers,” basically funds construction teams in our communities to get to work making homes more energy efficient using American-made insulation and efficiency technology. Consumers get to collect the savings. The program includes two tracks towards long and short-term benefits.

The Silver Star program will provide rebates for the installation of specific energy-saving technologies, including insulation, duct sealing, windows and doors, window films, air sealing, and water heaters. These include purchase of products manufactured right here in Southern Virginia. Homeowners will be able to receive up to $3,000 in rebates under Silver Star.

The Gold Star program rewards homeowners who conduct a comprehensive energy review and implement a full plan to reduce energy use throughout the home. Consumers will receive $3,000, or half the cost, for measures that reduce energy use by 20 percent, and can receive up to $8,000 when additional energy savings are achieved.

Home Star is expected to allow 3 million families to renovate their homes to be more energy efficient. Consumers are predicted to save $9.2 billion on their energy bills over the next 10 years as a result of Home Star’s energy efficiency investments. And, Home Star will create 168,000 new jobs here in the United States. Construction jobs generally cannot be outsourced and more than 90 percent of energy efficiency technologies and related products are manufactured here in America, some in Central and Southern Virginia.

Importantly, I worked with Congressman Rick Boucher to support an amendment to make sure window film, which is manufactured in Henry County, is included as a qualified energy efficiency product covered under the program.

This bill is another victory for making Southside the clean energy capitol of the country. This program boosts business and jobs in Martinsville and Henry County, helps families across the country save on their energy bills, and increases home values.

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