By Rebecca Stewart
The U.S. Department of Energy’s low-income Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) created or retained more than 13,000 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2011, ranking second out of approximately 200 federal programs funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). Weatherization-related jobs employ highly trained, skilled technicians who install a wide variety of energy efficiency measures that encompass the building envelope, its heating and cooling systems, its electrical system, and electricity consuming appliances in low-income homes.
WAP has consistently ranked in the top ten for Recovery Act job creation and retention since tracking began in 2010. The Recovery Act granted $5 billion to the WAP network and the program reached a milestone in December 2011 by completing 600,000 weatherization upgrades three months ahead of the March 2012 target date. Nationwide, the weatherization of these 600,000 homes saved more than an estimated $320 million in energy costs in just the first year.
Congress appropriated $68 million to WAP for 2012, far below the level required to sustain this newly trained weatherization workforce. This will force State and local agencies to lay off skilled workers and increase the ranks of the unemployed.
“To ensure the continued delivery of high-quality services to homes nationwide, Congress and the President must deliver adequate funds to the WAP. The program effectively reduces energy consumption in homes by up to 35 percent, saving families more than $400 on their heating and cooling bills in the first year alone,” said Steve Payne, State administrator of WAP for the state of Washington and President of NASCSP.
Weatherization works, both for the low-income families served and as a sound government investment towards America’s economic and energy security. As President Obama said in his State of the Union address on January 24, “The easiest way to save money is to waste less energy.” WAP provides significant energy savings for its recipients, employs skilled workers, and makes America’s homes more energy efficient and less dependent on foreign oil.