Trenton – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Troy Singleton that would help schools and small businesses in New Jersey upgrade their water and ventilation systems to protect the health of students, educators, customers and workers.
The bill, S-3995, would establish the School & Small Business Energy Efficiency Stimulus Program Fund in the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to provide the resources to ensure that heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in schools and small businesses in underserved communities are in good repair and working order. The systems would be upgraded to improve the health and safety of the environment and to allow safe operations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will also fund improvements to old, inefficient plumbing fixtures that waste water and energy.
“The importance of clean air and clean water takes on greater importance as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “We have to do all we can to protect the health and safety of students and educators, as well as the customers and employees of small businesses. They need to have confidence that they are breathing air and using water that is clean and safe.”
The legislation would create two separate sub-programs to administer the water system improvements and ventilation upgrades. It would allocate 25 percent of the funding for water systems and 75 percent for ventilation/HVAC systems. Further, the bill is expected to create jobs around the state.
“As schools and businesses continue to reopen, there are concerns around whether they have adequate ventilation systems to meet health and safety requirements,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “This legislation will provide the necessary funding assistance to allow these already cash-strapped businesses and school districts to upgrade their systems, which will improve the air our residents breathe and the water they drink overall.”
Funding for the program would come from the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP). The BPU would approve grant awards that cover up to 75 percent of the project costs.
The bill was released from the Senate by a vote of 37-2.