Weatherization works!

WAP Program funds improve the energy efficiency of low-income dwellings utilizing the most advanced technologies and testing protocols available in the housing industry.  Since the Program’s inception, more than 6.8 million homes have been weatherized using federal, State, utility, and other monies.

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The Recovery Act provided the WAP with an unprecedented level of funding:  $5 billion over three years, compared to an average annual budget of approximately $200 million.  Standing up a program of this size was an enormous challenge, especially given the addition of Davis-Bacon requirements and other impediments that had to be overcome. 

WAP has met the challenge posed by the Recovery Act and is presently the 7th highest Recovery Act job supporter, with over 14,000 jobs in the network. Many other indirect jobs have been created in the WAP “supply chain” of vendors and companies that serve the program. 

WAP is heavily invested in training the emerging clean-energy workforce and is a key gateway for the expansion of the growing residential energy efficiency market which is more important than ever in the current economic and political climate. 

Training centers across the country teach out-of-work construction workers and other forward-thinking workers the latest diagnostic techniques and skills to conduct home energy audits and state-of-the-art efficiency retrofits.  In fact, the current Recovery through Retrofit initiative builds upon the framework and standards created and maintained by the WAP for the Workforce Guidelines for Home Energy Upgrades, standardizing effective, safe, and technologically advanced procedures.  

In addition, the Weatherization Program delivers the following benefits:

• reduces energy use by approximately 35% for hundreds of thousands of homeowners each year. This represents a savings that families can use to pay for other necessities;

• reduces the nation’s energy demand by the equivalent of 24.1 million barrels of oil each year.

These savings are essential for several reasons:

• Low-income families pay up to 14.4% of their total household income on energy, in contrast to middle income households, which typically pay 3.3%. 

• In times of energy shortages and escalating energy costs, the energy burden for these families can reach 20 to 30 percent or more of their available income.

• There are still many needy families living in substandard housing who cannot afford to pay their energy bills.  

While the Weatherization network has successfully leveraged other funds and resources into the program for many years and has diverse partnerships with utilities to expand low-income weatherization services, there is a continued need for strong Federal support of the program.  Federal funds provide the administrative, managerial, and oversight framework for WAP as a whole. Without this framework, the program would be adversely affected, leading to deep losses in services, expertise, and quality control. 

The future of the program is in jeopardy due to federal budget cuts.  The Recovery Act money gives WAP the opportunity to ramp up the network, but ARRA funding will expire next spring. States and local agencies are already laying-off workers as ARRA funding is exhausted. Without sustainable funding, the losses will go far beyond wiping out the over 14,000 jobs supported under the ARRA program, thereby saturating the already depressed construction market with these addition jobless workers. 

Weatherization works, both for the households served and as a sound government investment! 

Warfield is Executive Director of the National Association for State Community Services Programs.