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Tonko, Coons Advance Bill to Weatherize Homes, Lower Consumer Utility Bills

Legislation would extend, modernize popular Weatherization Assistance Program for low-income households

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Washington, April 3, 2019 | comments
WASHINGTONPaul Tonko, Chairman of the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Environment & Climate Change, joined with colleagues in both chambers of Congress to introduce legislation that would extend and strengthen the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps low-income households insulate their homes from extreme heat and cold and make other cost-effective investments in home energy efficiency upgrades. The legislation, H.R. 2041, The Weatherization Enhancement and Local Energy Efficiency Investment and Accountability Act, is co-sponsored by Bobby Rush, Chairman of the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Marcy Kaptur, Chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water.

“America’s weatherization program is more than just a smart investment in energy efficiency that saves money for low-income individuals and families,” said Tonko. “A strong and active weatherization program also makes our families and communities safer, reduces climate pollution and supports thousands of local jobs. I urge my colleagues to advance this common-sense legislation immediately on behalf of our nation’s future and our constituents who need it most.”

Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Senate version of the bill, S. 983.

“Saving energy is the first step to reducing our energy costs and increasing our nation’s energy security,” Senator Coons said. “The Weatherization Assistance Program allows millions of Americans to reap the benefits of a wide range of energy-efficient technologies and practices. The bill will not only ensure that this landmark program can continue to help make American homes safer, healthier, and more energy efficient, it also further enhances the program by creating a new competitive grant for innovation. This is common-sense, bipartisan legislation that I hope will once again earn strong support in the Senate.”

An independent review by Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that each Weatherization program dollar delivers $4.50 in benefits including energy savings and improved health & safety. The Weatherization Assistance Program also supports some 8,500 jobs and is responsible for energy efficiency upgrades in millions of homes across the country. Congressional authorization for the program expired in September 2012.

Low-income households pay 7.2% of their household income on energy, more than three times the amount that higher income households pay.

H.R. 2041  /  S. 983

  • FULL TITLE: The Weatherization Enhancement and Local Energy Efficiency Investment and Accountability Act
  • Reauthorizes the Weatherization Assistance Program at $350 million through Fiscal Year 2024
  • Modernizes the definition of weatherization materials to include renewable energy technologies and other advanced technologies
  • Allows re-weatherization of homes 15 years after past weatherization services were completed
  • Creates a small, competitive grant program to support innovative weatherization practices

 

David Bradley, CEO of the National Community Action Foundation, which represents the nationwide network of Community Action Agencies that serve as local WAP providers, said this: "Because of the leadership of Congressman Tonko and Senator Coons, Weatherization, a bipartisan policy with a real impact on families' health and safety during the coldest months of winter and warmest months of summer, a policy that lowers everyone's household energy bills, will have a chance to be reauthorized and available for the next five years. It's hard to imagine how folks struggling to make ends meet could survive a winter in Maine or a summer in Mississippi without Weatherization. Additionally, this bill modernizes the program so that it can make the most of 21st century equipment and information now available. The Community Action network is grateful for Congressman Tonko’s and Senator Coons's efforts, and we look forward to working toward the bill's passage."

Jenae Bjelland, Executive Director of the National Association for State Community Services Programs commented, “The WAP is a critical program that reduces the home energy costs of vulnerable families and makes their homes healthier and safer. This legislation will reauthorize WAP and allow the weatherization network to build upon its legacy of over 40 years of helping low-income Americans. We applaud and appreciate the leadership of Representative Tonko and Senator Coons, who are tireless advocates for weatherization.”

David Terry, Executive Director of the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), applauded the introduction of the weatherization reauthorization legislation and stated: “Along with the reauthorization and modernization of the State Energy Program, this legislation is our highest priority for this Congress. We congratulate and thank Rep. Tonko and Sen. Coons for their long-time leadership on these issues. Americans will be significantly better off with the passage of the reauthorization legislation. Weatherization helps low-income Americans, veterans, disabled and the elderly stay in their homes by significantly reducing their energy bills. This is good public policy.”

Keith Aldridge, President and CEO of the Home Performance Coalition praised the bill, adding “The U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program is vital to improving the housing and lives of low-income families across the country.  Private contractors, and those who work for Weatherization Agencies, see first-hand the benefits to homeowners in both lower energy bills and a better quality of life.  We applaud Congressman Tonko and Senator Coons for introducing the Weatherization and Enhancement and Local Energy Efficiency Investment and Accountability Act.”

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