Press Release

As Temperatures Drop and Heating Bills Soar, Gillibrand & Tonko Urge Administration to Fund Weatherization Assistance Program

Jan 25, 2013

Schenectady, NY – With temperatures in the Capital Region dropping and heating bills soaring, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Paul Tonko 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.”

“I have led the fight to protect these funds from massive budget cuts in the House over the past few years,” said Congressman Paul Tonko. “Not only do these programs create jobs and make us more energy secure, but they also ensure we are protecting our must vulnerable neighbors during extreme weather events. As the budget process continues, I hope my colleagues in the House will join me in a bipartisan way to protect these valuable investments and grow our domestic clean energy jobs.”


“Weatherization not only benefits families with decreased energy costs, but reduces our national energy consumption and carbon footprint.  It is an investment in the future that pays for itself.” said Julie Hoxsie, Executive Director of Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council, Inc.  “Many families don’t realize that they are eligible for weatherization services.  A family of four can make up to $49,332 to be eligible.”  Additionally Hoxsie said the program benefits the local economy.  “Our Weatherization Program uses over 100 suppliers and contractors each year.”


“I am relieved the Senator is bringing attention to the important work done every day by local Weatherization Assistance Programs such as Saratoga EOC in helping to reduce energy costs for low-income people. Low income families are struggling to meet their basic needs and having  to choose between putting food on the table, medicine for their children and heating their homes is a crisis, particularly when temperatures dip below freezing.  This week as temperatures dropped below zero we are especially concerned that dangerous alternative heating sources will result in lost lives.  The Weatherization Assistance Program is an efficient, innovative way to improve energy consumption and lower costs, both of which provide an improved quality of life for our community’s low income people”, said Deb Schimpf, Executive Director of Schenectady Community Action Program, and host to the local Weatherization Assistance Office. 


Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council or EOC is a Community Action Agency that helps low income families work toward self-sufficiency.  Saratoga EOC administers the Weatherization Assistance Program for both Saratoga and Schenectady Counties.  They currently have 309 households on their waiting list for weatherization services.   Last year, Saratoga EOC weatherized 229 households saving residents of both Schenectady and Saratoga Counties an average of 35% percent in annual energy costs, or about $650 annually.  The current proposed 2013 allocation would mean over 100 fewer owners and renters weatherized this year. 



Schenectady County residents can apply at the Schenectady Community Action Program at 913 Albany Street in Schenectady or call 374-2221.  Saratoga County residents can apply at the Saratoga County EOC, 40 New Street, in Saratoga Springs or call 587-3158.


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.