As 2020 comes to a close, we have the opportunity to take the lessons from a truly unprecedented year and apply them as we look towards the future. We would like to take some time this holiday season to reflect on the past year and all that we in the CSBG and WAP Networks have accomplished together. Though we weren’t able to meet in person for much of this year, we were able to connect in new and innovative ways. There were many goals we accomplished and challenges we overcame together this year as the CSBG and WAP networks! Read further to learn about how we adapted, collaborated, and communicated with our partners to thrive in 2020.
How NASCSP Adapted
Hosting COVID-19 Resources and Information
One of NASCSP’s earliest responses to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown was creating a COVID resources page to share important guidance on safety and operations during the pandemic, as well as specific policies taken by our members.
Improving Health & Safety Training
Both the CSBG and WAP networks responded to shutdowns and travel restrictions with updated policies. These policies were informed by information from federal partners, virtual trainings conducted by NASCSP, and by safety courses including one from Energy Smart which was provided free to all WAP staff.
Updating State & Territory Office Protocols
State & territory offices worked selflessly and tirelessly to support agencies while experiencing significant impacts and challenges themselves. Our members have experienced furloughs, hiring freezes, and significant interruptions in their daily processes. In spite of this, they have met the moment in service to our collective mission. These contributions do not go unseen or unsung, NASCSP recognizes your work, applauds your sacrifice, and is grateful for your service.
Spearheading the Public Response
In March 2020, the CSBG Network received a $1 billion supplemental allocation from Congress to prevent, prepare, and respond to the impacts of COVID-19. Our member networks around the country worked diligently to allocate these funds to local agencies and to get these crucial funds in the hands of low-income people and communities impacted by COVID-19.
Responding to Crises Past & Present
Fifteen states and one territory received the first two phases of the CSBG Disaster Relief Supplemental award. These supplemental funds are being administered by states and local agencies to respond to the impacts of natural disasters in calendar years 2018 and 2019. During 2020, state offices conducted needs assessments, submitted applications, and worked in collaboration with their networks to distribute funds and respond to needs in local communities. NASCSP also convened the Disaster Relief Supplemental Peer Group to offer opportunities for shared learning and sharing of best practices amongst recipient states.
How NASCSP Collaborated
Improving Best Practices
NASCSP convened the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Best Practice Work Group in 2020. This work group, made up of states who had high or improved ACSI scores, shared their best practices on high impact drivers of satisfaction with each other and the CSBG and WAP state office network. Resources and webinars documenting these practices can be found on our member portal.
Gathering Key Data
The CSBG DATA Task Force continued to convene virtually in the midst of the pandemic to review and create reporting tools needed in the network. These critical tools included a one pager on unduplicated counts, a walkthrough on how to report cash assistance, a guide for considerations when posting an RFP, and more. Draft versions are available on our member portal.
Strengthening our Workforce
NASCSP and our partners convened the Workforce Development Working Group (WDWG) in 2020. This group aims to aid member offices and local agencies in dealing with challenges in workforce recruitment and retention as well as to create resources to be used across the network for workforce development. Resources and webinars documenting these practices can be found on our member portal.
Supporting Critical Frontline Resources
State and territories have worked to support CSBG eligible entities on the front lines of the pandemic, offering administrative and regulatory relief while maintaining the high level of accountability the network is known for. States empowering local agencies allowed them to focus on what matters most, providing critical assistance to vulnerable people and communities.
Hiring the Best Staff
2020 was a big year of growth for NASCSP staff.
- The first addition of 2020 was Andrea Schroer, who joined in February as the WAP Program Manager before becoming NASCSP’s WAP Director.
- Hugh Poole joined the team in May as the CSBG State Assistance Specialist, bringing his experience as CSBG Program Manager at the State of Kansas.
- Khari Grant joined NASCSP as the Program Support Associate in June, providing key operational support with his experience from the United Negro College Fund.
- Ian Gray became NASCSP’s Legislative & Communications Analyst in July, giving voice to member priorities in policy conversations on the Hill.
- Paige Milson joined NASCSP in August as the Policy Analyst, providing key data insights and visual representations with her experience from the Emerson National Hunger Fellowship.
Bidding Fond Farewell
In September and November of 2020, NASCSP said goodbye to Eric Behna and to Amy Klusmeier respectively. Eric returned to school to deepen his knowledge of social work and we are happy that he will continue to use his advocacy skills for good. To Amy we said goobye but not farewell, as she took her immense weatherization experience at the local, state, and national level to work at the Department of Energy. Amy’s knowledge and determination as NASCSP’s WAP Director will be missed but we know she will excel in her new position and in whatever she sets her mind to.
Advocating with Policymakers
Through working with Congressional Representatives, Senators, and administrators in the Federal Government, NASCSP was able to achieve key legislative victories. The $1 billion supplemental allocation to CSBG in March was critical to funding the important services most needed during the crisis. Both programs received funding increases in FY2021 appropriations, indicating continued legislative support. We also successfully advocated for policy fixes to CSBG funding that improved access to critical funds for smaller states.
Renewing Our Programs
The Weatherization Assistance Program was operating without Congressional reauthorization since its expiration in 2012. After years of direct advocacy and collaboration with our energy efficiency partners, NASCSP was able to secure reauthorization for the WAP in December of 2020. We are happy to be able to end the year and the decade winning such a substantial victory for the weatherization network while demonstrating strong congressional support for the program.
How NASCSP Communicated
Coming Together Virtually
We were grateful to see all of our members live during the NASCSP Winter Conference in February 2020. Later, NASCSP held its first ever virtual conference the last week of September 2020. This virtual experience included presentations from our Federal partners, other national association partners, subject matter experts, and peer states, all aimed at advancing state administrator success during the current crisis and beyond.
Updating our Members
NASCSP held many member-only webinars to keep state and territory administrators apprised of OMB clearance processes, policy updates from DOE & HHS, changes in reporting, and all the various CARES and Disaster supplemental requirements in order to keep member communication consistent and up to date.
Providing Timely Training & Technical Assistance
As state offices have pivoted to meet the needs of their networks, so has NASCSP. Over this year NASCSP updated its training and technical assistance approaches to accommodate and take advantage of the new virtual training environment. In this virtual environment, NASCSP has the opportunity to reach whole new audiences who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend trainings in person and engage with states and agencies in new and impactful ways.
Reporting our Successes
The CSBG network successfully submitted their second full CSBG Annual Report. We now have two full years of new CSBG data points to use to tell the CSBG story. In this submission, there were 430 community level initiatives submitted from 261 local agencies highlighting a wide range of community change efforts happening throughout the country, showing the diverse and important work that agencies and states engage in.
Celebrating Weatherization Day
The year wouldn’t have felt right without a hearty celebration of the work of everyone in the Weatherization Assistance Program network. We took advantage of the virtual landscape to hold a Weatherization Day 2020 unlike any before. Governors and mayors still released proclamations celebrating the day and we still communicated with our partners across the nation over social media, but rather than in-person events our members held virtual fairs, webinars, and trainings.
Registering our Winter Conference
Registration for the 2021 NASCSP Winter Conference is officially open! Register here and visit our conference website to learn more about the virtual event with the theme “Building the Road Ahead.” The NASCSP team is excited to host you virtually March 8 through 12. Save the date!
Preparing for the Future
NASCSP, our national partners, and everyone in our networks accomplished an enormous feat in 2020. Not only did we make it through difficult periods of change and isolation, we faced those challenges together head-on and turned them into opportunities to grow. We would like to thank everyone who was with us this year and commemorate achieving a goal unlike any other. See you all in 2021!
Happy New Year from the NASCSP Staff!