As Temperatures Drop and Heating Bills Soar, Gillibrand Urges Administration to Fund Weatherization Assistance Program
Program Supports Local Construction, Small Business, And Manufacturing Jobs, With Every $1 Invested, Weatherization Returns $2.51 In Benefits To Households And Community
January 25, 2013
Watertown, NY – With temperatures in the North Country dropping and heating bills soaring, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand urged the Administration to fund the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the State Energy Program (SEP). WAP helps families reduce energy bills by making homes more energy efficient. Funds are used to improve the energy performance in homes using the most advanced technologies and testing protocols available in the housing industry. In New York, SEP helps fund the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA) to support a broad range of programs, including long-term energy planning, efforts to increase efficiency in public buildings and reduce costs to the public, programs to support energy-efficient manufacturing, perform energy audits and retrofits, and support research in home and commercial energy efficiency improvements.
“With winter here and temperatures plummeting, that means higher energy costs for families and businesses,” said Senator Gillibrand. “During these tough economic times, many New Yorkers simply cannot afford this added strain on their budgets – especially since New Yorkers already pay more than the national average for energy costs. Weatherization programs help save families hundreds on energy costs while supporting local construction, small businesses, and manufacturing jobs.”
“The Weatherization Assistance Program is one way in which the lives of low-income families are improved – by providing warmth and reducing energy costs, thereby increasing their ability to purchase other bare necessities such as food and medicine,” said Melinda Gault, Executive Director for the Community Action Planning Council. “In the bitter cold winter environment of the north country, Weatherization is a vital service for low-income households.”
Established in 1966, the Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County, Inc. (CAPC) is a multi-service agency with a mission that is focused on assisting, supporting and empowering low-income individuals so that they may become more self-sufficient. Each year, CAPC serves more than 10,000 unduplicated individuals through a variety of diverse programs, including the Weatherization Assistance Program which began in 1976. There are currently 350 families on the Weatherization Assistance Program waiting list. At current funding levels, it would take three and a half years to accommodate these individuals.
With cold winters and high energy prices, these programs are uniquely important in New York. In 2005, State residents expended, on average, $2,409 per household on energy costs, compared to a national average of $1,810. As a result, weatherization investments are particularly helpful in assisting families: each dollar invested in program activities can save an estimated $3 in energy costs over the life of the installed measures.
Additionally, the dramatic storms that swept across New York over the past two years caused significant damage, including to home heating, cooling and insulation systems. This damage is expected to significantly increase the number of New Yorkers who could benefit from weatherization assistance.
Specifically, Senator Gillibrand urged President Obama to include no less than $210 million for WAP and $50 million for SEP in his FY 2014 budget.
During the last 33 years, WAP has helped more than 7 million families nationally save money by improving the energy efficiency of their homes, freeing up finite resources for other essentials like food and medicine. Weatherization saves households on average up to $400 per year on their heating and cooling bills. Since the energy improvements that make up weatherization services are long lived, the savings add up over time to substantial benefits for weatherization clients and their communities, and the nation as a whole. This program supports local construction, small businesses, and manufacturing jobs.
In New York, WAP is administered by the Division of Homes and Community Renewal (DHCR), which distributes funds to local affiliates who manage the program in each county. Assistance is available to both homeowners and renters who pay their own utility costs through local weatherization providers in each of New York’s 62 counties. Households at or below 60 percent of state median income are eligible for the program. A range of efficiency improvements can be conducted through the program, with energy use analyses used to determine the most cost-effective improvements. Energy efficiency measures performed through the program include air sealing (weatherstripping, caulking), wall and ceiling insulation, heating system improvements or replacement, efficiency improvements in lighting, hot water tank and pipe insulation, and refrigerator replacements with highly efficient Energy Star rated units.
SEP allows states to assist with the development of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, and effectively works with the private and public sectors to produce significant returns. According to a study by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, every dollar of SEP federal funds are leveraged by $10.71 of state and private funds, and result in $7.22 in annual energy savings.