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This Week in Washington


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The American economy added 290,000 jobs in April, with U.S. manufacturing adding 44,000 during that time frame. After a substantial increase of 26,000 in March, construction employment increased by 14,000 last month.

While this is all good news, and a positive sign that our economy is finally headed in the right direction, unemployment remains at 9.9 percent with 15.3 million Americans looking for work. Progress has been made, but much work remains to be done. Our economy has stabilized, but it isn't fixed, not yet.

We must continue to take the necessary steps to strengthen regional economies and industries, and to ensure the collapse of 2008 is never repeated. The recovery must be built on a stable foundation. I believe revitalizing American industry -- specifically American manufacturing -- is a key element to stabilizing our economic foundation.

This week, Congress took another step to ensuring that we continue to strengthen and reenergize American manufacturing while putting people back to work and investing in the green technology that will define our economy in the coming decades.

I supported the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives with bipartisan support on Thursday. This legislation offers incentives for homeowners to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes, which in turn creates jobs for American workers in manufacturing, construction and retail industries.

The incentives will offer as much as $3,000 in up front incentives for improvements in insulation, duct sealing, windows and doors, air sealing and water heaters. It also offers incentives for complete home energy-saving renovations that could total as much as $8,000 for home owners who are able to reduce their energy savings by 45 percent.

Consumers who can demonstrate a savings of 20 percent will receive $3,000 and an additional $1,000 for each additional five percent of energy savings, up to $8,000.

This legislation is estimated to create upwards of 170,000 jobs in construction, manufacturing and retail industries. These are industries that have been hardest hit by the recession. It will also save approximately 3 million American families an estimated $200-500 per year on their energy bills and will reduce America's dependence of foreign oil by cutting the use of home heating oil by the equivalent of 7 million barrels in 2011.

This bipartisan legislation was supported by a number of business, labor, environmental and consumer groups. It was endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Home Builders, National Resources Council and the Home Star Coalition. North Carolina Home Builders Association has also lent its support to the bill.

In a letter of support, the North Carolina Home Builders Association said H.R. 5019 would provide a much-needed economic boost to North Carolina's construction industry. Retrofitting existing home upgrades are an effective way to reduce residential sector energy use and to boost local industry.
Investments in energy efficiency and green technology are investments in our future. I am also cosponsoring a bill, the Rural Energy Savings Program Act, which will create jobs and save American families money on their electric bills.

Under the Rural Energy Savings Program, the USDA Rural Utilities Service provides loans to rural electric cooperatives, which in turn are re-lent to families and small businesses to implement energy efficient improvements that meet RUS energy saving standards. These rural electric co-op customers on average have lower incomes than the national average and are more likely to live in an older home that is less energy efficient. They would benefit the most from energy efficient upgrades, but are most likely to be unable to afford the upfront costs. The program eliminates that upfront cost through the loan, which the customer pays off over a 10 year period through the utility bills.

We have to get serious about making investments in the technology of the future and reducing not only our greenhouse gas emissions, but also ending our dependence on foreign oil. Not only will it help put our nation on a course to getting our folks back work, it is vital to our national security.

By strengthening our manufacturing base and investing in new alternatives through green energy and technology, we will continue down this road to economic recovery.

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