Senator Jack Reed

via Senator Jack Reed’s office

WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to help more families lower household energy costs, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is teaming up with U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Chris Coons (D-DE) on the Weatherization Assistance Program Improvements Act (S. 3769) to improve delivery of weatherization assistance while reducing aggregate energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

This week, Senator Reed, who also chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, included the bipartisan weatherization measure in the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that is making its way through the U.S. Senate.  Reed’s measure would serve more low-income households that are currently unable to receive weatherization services because their homes are in need of significant repairs.  It authorizes a Weatherization Readiness Fund, providing $30 million annually to help those in need repair structural issues and prepare homes for weatherization assistance, increasing the number of homes the program is able to serve.  It also would raise the amount of total funding allowed to be spent on each home from $6,500 to $12,000 to keep up with current labor and material costs, and would raise the amount of funding allowed to be spent on renewable energy systems in each home from $3,000 to $6,000 to provide low-income households with cleaner energy options. 

Residential home weatherization helps reduce heavy energy burdens through cost-effective building improvements such as improved insulation, windows, and air sealing, heating, and ventilation.

For every dollar invested by WAP, $4.50 is generated in combined energy savings and non-energy benefits such as job creation, according to the U.S Department of Energy.  In addition to saving families money, energy efficient homes also help cut down on our carbon footprint, reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

“This bipartisan, cost-effective initiative is about saving families and taxpayers money, cutting air pollution, and generating good-paying clean-energy jobs.  It will help save families in need real money on their energy bills while also benefitting the U.S. economy, environment, and public health.  It would help reduce demand on energy grids nationwide which helps keep utility rates lower.  By expanding the program to include critical home repairs, we can alleviate economic hardship, address healthy housing disparities, and improve energy efficiency for those households who need it most,” said Senator Reed, the lead author of the bill.

The Weatherization Assistance Program was created in the 1970s as a response to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil embargo that spurred long gas lines across the country and produced rapid price increases in other energy sources.  Since 1976 it has helped over 7 million low-income families reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient.  It helps households save about $372 annually on their energy bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. 

The State Energy Program provides cost-shared resources directly to the states for allocations by the governor-designated State Energy Office to support energy projects, such as energy emergency planning and response, private sector innovation in clean energy and state-driven energy infrastructure modernization.

Senator Reed led successful efforts to include a total of $3.5 billion for weatherization programs in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which President Biden signed into law. And the final Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2022 provides $334 million for weatherization, an increase of $19 million over previous funding levels.  This resulted in a total of more than $16.5 million for Rhode Island in weatherization funding and more than $3.7 million for Rhode Island’s State Energy Program.

Reed is also a cosponsor of the Investing in State Energy Act (S. 5009), which would prevent undue delays in distributing federal grants through the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the State Energy Program (SEP) to state agencies and local partners that implement energy initiatives.  These programs reduce energy costs for low-income households, spur private sector energy innovation, and improve emergency planning and response.

The Investing in State Energy Act would direct the DOE to provide application guidance and publish expected WAP and SEP allocations to states within 60 days of enactment of appropriations for the programs and distribute funding to states and other recipients as quickly as practicable. By requiring the publication of expected WAP and SEP awards, the Investing in State Energy Act will ensure states, tribes, and other entities have the information they need in order to effectively plan for expected funding.  The ability to conduct such planning encourages local high-impact projects that serve families in need and allows states to continue to make good use of critical resources to meet their energy goals.  Senators Shaheen, Collins, Coons and Reed previously introduced a version of this legislation in 2019.

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