“We felt the organization fit squarely in the North Dakota tradition of neighbor helping neighbor.”
As Governor, you focused on economic development and quality of life as part of your 6 pillars for North Dakota, do you see a role for nonprofits in these priorities?
Nonprofits have been good partners in our efforts to raise the quality of life for North Dakotans. Over the years we have worked closely with groups like Lutheran Social Services, the God’s Child Project, the Long Term Care Association, AARP and other dedicated organizations that work to raise the standard of living and improve the quality of life for North Dakotans. Nonprofits are often the closest and most compassionate advocates for a given cause and that usually makes them very effective.
You have been involved with Rebuilding Together Greater Bismarck/Mandan. What drew you to the organization? What do you enjoy most about working with this member of the Rebuilding Together network?
Last year Mikey and I were asked to serve as honorary chairs of Rebuilding Together for the greater Bismarck-Mandan area. We felt the organization fit squarely in the North Dakota tradition of neighbor helping neighbor. Its work to help our seniors, the financially disadvantaged and people with disabilities helped to ensure that those in need could live in dignity, comfort and safety in their homes.
The group has a great track record, too. Since its inception in 1997, Rebuilding Together has raised more than $600,000 in in-kind contributions and gifts, and provided free rehabilitation and repairs to 133 homes in the Bismarck-Mandan area. More than 5,000 volunteers have donated their time and skills to replace floors and carpeting, repair plumbing, replace unsafe electrical wiring, install handicap accessible devices, paint homes, and repair windows. It’s an organization that fits into our traditions and the inclination of North Dakotans to lend a hand wherever needed.
As Senator, you serve on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Do you see a role for nonprofits such as Rebuilding Together in helping low-income homeowners save on their utility bills?
There are many reasons why we should develop our energy resources, and one of the best is to help make energy in all its forms affordable for low and middle income homeowners, as well as for the small businesses that employ most Americans. In North Dakota, many people rely on electricity or natural gas to heat their homes. Also, because we’re a rural state, most people rely on cars and trucks to get to work and do their shopping. When gasoline prices more than double or electricity costs increase, as they have in recent years, it’s usually low-income families that feel the impact most because energy is a larger share of their budget.
I am working with the energy committee to produce more energy with good environmental stewardship to help bring down those costs for everyone. Access to affordable energy is also important for small businesses, because energy is often one of their largest expenses and they can’t grow and hire if a larger share of their income goes to energy.
I have also worked with Senator Amy Klobuchar to introduce a bill in the Senate that would establish a program to assist nonprofit organizations in improving the energy efficiency of their buildings. The Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act allots $50 million for each of the next three years to support nonprofit organizations that retrofit their buildings with energy-efficient improvements. That includes hospitals, youth centers, schools, social-welfare program facilities, houses of worship and other nonresidential, noncommercial structures.