While the region's economy has gradually started to come back to life, the impact COVID-19 has dealt to the Hudson Valley will continue to present new challenges to our local businesses. That's why Central Hudson launched its Back to Business program in late May. The utility has pledged $1 million in economic development support that provides small businesses with grants to reduce the cost of borrowing with a local bank.
"Small businesses help define the character of a region, employ thousands of residents, and provide needed services," says President and CEO of Central Hudson Charles A. Freni. "Many have limited access to funding and may not qualify for other forms of assistance."
As the primary energy provider for much of the Hudson Valley, Central Hudson has an understandably large role in serving local communities. The Back to Business grants are just one of the ways it's working to deliver on its responsibility to the region.
Amid the height of the pandemic this spring, the utility also contributed $100,000 to local community-support agencies like Ulster County's Project Resilience, Orange and Sullivan counties' COVID-19 response funds, Dutchess Responds, the Hudson Valley Food Bank, and the Hudson Valley Additive Manufacturing Center at SUNY New Paltz for the purpose of producing face shields.
While grants and donations are a linchpin of corporate responsibility, Central Hudson is working to produce financial relief on the customer level as well. In an effort to expand the number of customers who meet income qualifications for bill discounts, the utility is working to include families who participate in programs beyond the Home Energy Assistance Program, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medical Life Alert.
Residential customers who are looking to manage their budget can benefit from Central Hudson's energy efficiency initiatives that support the state's ambitious 2019 commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. According to Central Hudson, meeting these goals will require curbing carbon emissions in the two largest emitting sectors—building heating and transportation.
In an effort to save 75 million kilowatt-hours of energy usage—the annual equivalent of roughly 10,000 homes—Central Hudson has committed $43 million in clean heat initiatives over the next five years.This initiative alone will cover one-third to half the cost of the installation of heat pump technologies. Residential customers can also take advantage of an array of other household benefits, from discounts on the purchase of energy-efficient products at the online CenHub Store to incentives for recycling old refrigerators or freezers and rebates for transitioning to high-efficiency natural gas heating systems.
Despite the pandemic, Central Hudson continues to provide work for more than 1,700 employees and contractors, a majority of whom call the Hudson Valley home. These jobs not only continue to bolster the local economy during these challenging times, but are vital to Central Hudson's work of maintaining and improving energy infrastructure to meet customer needs as well as modernization initiatives for a cleaner, more efficient energy system for years to come.