Stimulus money goes to weatherization projects

October 30, 2009 4:39:39 PM PDT
The Obama administration says the stimulus bill has saved or created about 650,000 jobs. That's a revised figure given after critics said earlier estimates were too high because some jobs were counted more than once.However, a new round of stimulus money is being spent in Chicago. Approximately $242 million was awarded to Illinois. The number sounds impressive, but for some, job creation has been sluggish.

A Chicago area plant that became symbolic of workers fighting to hold on to their jobs in the recession is now symbolic of the bureaucratic process trying to convert federal money to local "green" jobs.

New energy efficient windows drew a lot of excitement Friday. Residents in one area complex are mostly low income. So, the building qualifies for a weatherization program supported by the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County (CEDA).

"These families typically spend a lot more on energy than most people do because it's a high proportion of their income," said CEDA's John Hamilton.

The excitement extends beyond savings to individual tenants. It represents a step forward in revitalizing America's economy and creating jobs.

"We've got to protect tax payer dollars and make sure it's well spent. So, overall, this takes some time. The benefits are just huge. It continues to pay for itself," the U.S. Dept. of Energy's Gil Sperling said.

The specially treated glass, and a plastic layer in between the panes, help make the windows energy efficient, but the secret to insulation is the gases put between the layers.

A company called Serious Materials created the windows. It will now bid to convert windows in the complex and other CEDA projects.

Serious is the company that bought what was Republic Windows and Doors, where workers got international attention for their sit-in last year.

Serious committed to rehiring all 270 union workers, but so far, only 20 union workers have been called back.

"It's not where we want to be. We want to get back to 200-plus or 300-plus at that plant, but it takes a while to get there," said Serious Materials VP Robin Roy.

It has been 11 months since two men speaking with ABC7 worked at Republic. They are among the more than 200 Republic workers waiting for Serious to get more contracts for their 'green' windows.

"It's been quite a strain," said Former Republic employee Ron Bender. "I'm fortunate my wife is still working, but we're barely making the ends meet."

"I understand things take time, but I wish they would speed things up," former employee Ricky Maklin said.

The workers don't blame Serious, but they hope homeowners thinking about weatherization will think of Serious and the workers waiting to get back to work.

While the many of the Serious workers wait, CEDA has added 70 jobs and more then two dozen contractors to complete weatherization projects.


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