Federal Weatherization Grants Help RIers Increase Energy Efficiency & Save a Bundle
Sen. Reed tours weatherized homes in Providence to see how $1.1M in federal weatherization grants are being put to use
PROVIDENCE, RI – As the national Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, U.S. Senator Jack Reed today joined with Providence residents, community partners, and energy experts to tout the program’s positive impacts and help more families in need save on their energy bills.
The Weatherization Assistance Program helps seniors, those with special needs, and low-income families to weatherize their homes, improve the efficiency of their heating systems, and reduce energy consumption. Each home that qualifies for weatherization services under WAP, gets an energy audit to determine the most cost-efficient course of action to achieve financial and energy savings. Typical improvements include: upgrading insulation in the attic, walls and floor; sealing air leaks around doors and windows; and repairing or upgrading cooling and heating units. In addition to lowering energy bills, improvements can also help reduce fire and safety hazards in the home.
Senator Reed, along with U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the Ranking Member and Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, respectively, are the leading Congressional champions of WAP. Thanks to their efforts, last year Rhode Island received $1,094,465 in WAP funding. This year, Reed and Collins successfully boosted funding for the program by $5 million, to a level of $220.6 million for fiscal year 2017 in the Senate-passed appropriations bill.
WAP, which got its start during the energy crisis of the 1970s, provides relief for lower-income homeowners and renters at risk of living in what is known as ‘energy poverty,’ which is typically recognized as households that are forced to spend about 10 percent or more of their income on energy-related expenses. According to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC): “low-income households—many of whom live in older housing with poor ventilation and aging, inefficient appliances and heating systems—spend, on average, 7.2 percent of their income on utility bills, which amounts to about $1,700 annually out of $25,000 in median household income. That is more than triple the 2.3 percent spent by higher-income households for electricity, heating and cooling.”
Across the country, low-income households pay disproportionately more than the average household in energy costs and that divide is particularly acute in Providence. A 2016 report, “Lifting the High Energy Burden in America’s Largest Cities,” found that low-income residents in Providence (9.5 percent) had the fifth highest energy burden of major cities, following: Memphis (13.2 percent of income), Birmingham (10.9 percent), Atlanta (10.2 percent), and New Orleans (9.8 percent).
Since 1990, Rhode Island has used WAP funds to successfully weatherize more than 13,250 low-income homes and rental units, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The program helps eligible Rhode Island families reduce annual energy bills by an average of $264, according to DOE. Energy savings average 35% of consumption for the typical low-income home. For every $1 invested in the Program, WAP returns $2.51 to the household and society.
“High utility bills present a real challenge for Rhode Islanders living on limited incomes. This program helps people save money, energy, and the environment all at once. It is truly a win-win-win. WAP has had tremendous economic, social, health, and safety benefits here in Rhode Island. It literally helps kids, parents, and seniors breathe easier and cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions,” said Reed, who joined with officials from Community Action Partnership of Providence (CAPP) and contractors from Eddy & Sons Weatherization as they toured a home undergoing weatherization upgrades on Lowell Avenue in Providence.
In the 2016 Fiscal Year that just ended, CAPP provided weatherization assistance to 225 individuals and families.
“CAPP is proud to administer this program, weatherization makes a huge impact for our residents in health and cost savings for the long term. Providence has a high proportion of older housing stock, with additional resources we could address our growing waitlist of over six thousand homes,” said Melissa Husband, CAPP Executive Director.
The Rhode Island Department of Human Services oversees the program and distributes federal funding to area Community Action Agencies (CAA). In turn, the CAAs administer the assistance to qualified individuals.
To be eligible, applicants must meet certain income standards, with priority given to the elderly, those with disabilities, and families with children. Eligibility guidelines may be found here.
To apply, interested Rhode Islanders may submit an application to a designated Community Action Agency. Find the CAA nearest you on the Rhode Island Association of CAAs website at: http://www.ricommunityaction.org