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Heinrich, White House official tout $100 million for electrification, weatherization projects in New Mexico

A U.S. senator and a White House official crowded into a small family home in the International District on Thursday, where they were briefed on a $10,000 home-improvement project underway there.

It might not sound like a project that would warrant the attention of Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Mitch Landrieu, the White House’s infrastructure coordinator. But the two men said there’s an abundance of federal money that will soon be available for people to apply for grants to pay for electrification and weatherization home-improvement projects.

Jennifer Morales, who lives in the home with her four children, is getting an updated and more powerful and efficient electric system, advanced light bulbs, air sealing, high efficiency shower heads, low-flush toilets and other improvements, which are expected to cost about $10,500.

Her projects are being funded through grants available through PNM, New Mexico Gas Company, the city of Albuquerque, the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority and other entities. She was synced up to the resources through a nearby church and Prosperity Works, a local nonprofit that works with families with limited incomes.

Heinrich said two massive bills signed into law by President Joe Biden — the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act — set aside more than $100 million for electrification and weatherization projects dedicated to New Mexico. The funding is intended to be available for about 10 years.

“The president’s vision was to invest in America by investing in people, investing in infrastructure,” Landrieu said. “So this is just a perfect example.”

The morning house visit was one of several stops Landrieu was making in central New Mexico on Thursday and Friday to showcase projects that are being funded through the large spending bills. New Mexico’s Democratic lawmakers widely supported both packages and have held events to highlight how the bills are going to do things like expand broadband internet access throughout rural New Mexico and even create a biking and hiking trail through Downtown Albuquerque.

“Just to tell the story of Biden-omics, which is essentially if you invest in the people of America, if you invest in things, you grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out, you put millions of people back to work, which has happened already,” Landrieu said when asked why he was visiting New Mexico. “You lower people’s cost and lower people’s burdens, you improve their lives.”

The Department of Energy is expected to provide states with guidance on how the money should be allocated to New Mexico residents. But ultimately it will be up to the New Mexico Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources to determine who qualifies for the funding and how they access the funds, according to a Heinrich spokeswoman.

Morales said the projects will greatly improve her life.

She has lived in the home the vast majority of her life. Her parents bought in the 1960s.

Morales said that after her dad died unexpectedly from COVID-19 in 2020, she took over the house which was aging and in need of several repairs. She was setting aside money for various projects. Her children were often spraying water into the swamp cooler to try to cool the home.

“I felt like I hit the lottery,” she said about the grants. “Really, I’ve been struggling a lot with my dad’s death.”

EnergyWorks, which is working on the Morales home improvements, estimates that once completed the efficiencies will save Morales about 1,236 kilowatt hours of electricity each year, 13,600 gallons of water and reduce her carbon dioxide emissions by a little more than two tons per year.

”One of the biggest places where we can move the needle on pollution is what we do in our homes and businesses and buildings,” Heinrich said.”We’re going to be able to take this incredible model and supercharge it with the money from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Inflation Reduction Act.”