Santa Fe, NM – Particularly in the wake of President Donald J. Trump’s announcement that he would withdraw the United States from the worldwide agreement to combat climate change known as the Paris Accord, local action has moved to the forefront as our best path forward in mitigating the impact of climate change.
Along with the Sustainable Santa Fe Commission, the Climate Action Task Force, Carbon Neutral 2040, and the Climate Mayors Accord commitment to honor the Paris Agreement, the Verde Fund is one of the signature environmental programs this administration has launched to combat climate change, preserve precious natural resources like water, and build resiliency and sustainability into the core of Santa Fe’s way of life.
“The Verde Fund makes sure taxpayer money is put to good use supporting local families who feel like they’ve been left behind – helping working Santa Feans deal with costs of food, water, electricity and other resources that are rising as a result of climate change. At the same time, these dollars can connect families who are out of work to the opportunities that come with an economy finally focusing on sustainability at a high level,” said Mayor Javier M. Gonzales.
“What we do now,” he added, “will set us up for failure or success in future generations.”
Established by resolution 2016-42, the Verde Fund’s mission is threefold: reduce systemic poverty, achieve carbon neutrality, and empower Santa Fe’s workforce, developing resiliency and opportunity in families where unemployment or under-employment are common.
The Council allocated an initial amount of $300,000 for the first round of programs and in December of 2016, city staff began the process of soliciting and reviewing competitive bids from local companies and groups that fit the mission of the Verde Fund as established. Now, after a competitive bidding process that included interviews with finalists by a committee including community representatives and issue staff, the City is proposing, pending a Council review and approval process that will begin on Monday in Councilor Carmichael Dominguez’s Finance Committee, to award two community-led initiatives with funding for the 2017 cycle.
One awardee is a community-wide collaboration among 12 organizations, the Verde Community Impact Collaborative, which includes YouthWorks, the Food Depot, Reunity Resources, MoGro, ProScape, Wildfire Network, Interfaith Leadership Alliance, Dashing Delivery, All Trees Firewood, the Santa Fe Community College and SFPS Adelante Program for Children, Youth and Families Experiencing Homelessness, and the Santa Fe Public Schools District.
The Collaborative will receive $200,000, and partners will contribute an additional $300,000 in-kind, to meet specific goals on the climate and poverty issues that formulate the Verde Fund Mission: food security and greenhouse gas production, home energy efficiency, wildfire mitigation, biofuel reduction and recycling, youth homelessness, job creation and career training.
The Verde Community Impact Collaborative project will:
- Create new jobs and train 40 young people in sustainability careers like weatherization, healthy food production, biofuel reduction and greenhouse management,
- Deliver 750 meals per day featuring local produce to 12 Homework Diner sites,
- Provide 50 boxes of fresh produce to 4 distribution sites that work with families in need,
- Reduce the risk of catastrophic fire in 75 acres of the Santa Fe wildland-urban interface,
- Design a permanent housing pilot with local families to get 4 young people off the street,
- Reduce CO2 emission by 36 tons per year through wildfire mitigation, biomass recycling and energy efficiency/weatherization efforts, and
- Save low-income families hard-earned dollars on utility bills through energy efficiency/home weatherization.
Melynn Schuyler of YouthWorks said, “We’ve set big goals for our community-wide impact project. This collaborative group is ready for the challenge to cause positive change in assisting our community. Our partnership will connect local young people to the economy that they have been traditionally denied entry to, while helping our most vulnerable families address hunger, save money, build resiliency and prepare Santa Fe for the impact that climate change will have on all of us. We’re proud and motivated to work collectively to leverage our strengths through partnership for the benefit of Santa Fe’s families and children and set a high standard in the Verde Fund’s inaugural year.”
The second is a grant in the amount of $100,000 to Homewise, an organization focused on housing and financial health for low income families in the Santa Fe area. The grant award will support 5 years of Solar Opportunity Loan Fund expansion.
Homewise will leverage the initial investment into an additional $400,000 of debt capital, which over 5 years will enable 20 Santa Fe households per year at 80% or less of the local median income to access PV solar systems using long-term, low-interest loans and make energy and water conservation upgrades that will save both resources and money over the life of the homes.
Homewise projects will:
- Reduce CO2 emissions by 89 tons per year through Solar PV installation in each year of the program,
- Reduce CO2 emissions an additional 18 tons per year through efficiency upgrades in each year of the program,
- Save low-income families hard-earned dollars on utility bills, and
- Reach out to the community through the Santa Fe Community College and Christus St. Vincent to locate and qualify the 20 households.
Mike Loftin, Homewise CEO, said, “Partnerships like this one have real potential to change lives and open up worlds of access where it didn’t exist before. Homewise is proud to be working with the City and the Verde Fund, leveraging an initial investment into 5 years of difference-making solar installations on homes for middle class Santa Feans who are eager to save money, conserve water and electricity, and play a vital role in the sustainability of this community we all love.”
The two grant tracks meet all three of Verde Fund’s goals. They invest in our workforce – boosting the solar industry and training more than 40 young people who are out of the workforce in fields that have staying power and give them the tools to make ends meet. They reduce carbon emissions, with targets for each year of the programs that add up to nearly 150 fewer tons of carbon per year in the atmosphere. And they help local Santa Fe families prepare for climate change by eliminating reliance on fossil fuel energy and cutting utility bills.
The combined total of City investment, organizational in-kind matches of $300,000, and Homewise debt capital leverage of $400,000 means that an initial city input of $300,000 will have the effect of $1,000,000 in investment into jobs and sustainability in the neighborhoods where it is most needed.
Mayor Gonzales said, “We couldn’t be more excited about seeing this money have an impact in the community – creating jobs and lowering utility bills while helping increase our community’s sustainability is a win for the whole city, and with the Council’s approval, I’m ready to get to work as soon as possible.”