To say that it has been a hot summer is the greatest of understatements. Across the U.S., communities—rural, urban, and all in between—have been suffering under sweltering conditions with no relief in sight. According to the Washington Post, this year has seen a record-breaking 90-day stretch with daily highs well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the season is not over yet.
Prolonged extreme heat takes an immense toll on communities, endangering the lives of residents through heat exposure, compromising the energy grid, and increasing energy burdens exponentially. While major heat events and their corresponding impacts have generally been felt in warmer regions, they are now beginning to creep into areas of the country that previously enjoyed colder or more moderate temperatures as well, putting additional strain on the nation’s energy infrastructure across an even wider geographical area.
Addressing the issues of catastrophic heat waves will require a multi-faceted approach, one that includes the time-tested Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). By retrofitting homes with upgraded appliances, HVAC systems, and insulation through the WAP, much-needed relief is provided to those most vulnerable, including seniors, families with young children, and individuals living with disabilities.
Families with low-income pay as much as 16 percent of their annual income toward energy costs, compared to other households that only spend up to 3.5 percent of their annual income on such costs. Weatherization related improvements not only ensure that families’ and individuals’ homes are safe, but that they also are able to reduce their annual energy burden by an average of $372. Over time, these savings multiply, and safer homes mean reduced medical costs—up to $514 per year and less time and wages lost to sick days—and savings of up to $538 per year.
The impacts of the WAP, especially during this time of ongoing extreme heat demonstrate why sustained investments in WAP are more important than ever. The $88 million in cuts proposed by the House of Representatives’ version of the Energy and Water FY2024 spending bill threaten to undermine these valuable and life-saving efforts at a time when communities with low income can least afford it. While flat funding was maintained for the critical Training and Technical Assistance and Weatherization Readiness Funds, it is crucial that the funds that support the work in homes across the country are not cut.
Earlier this summer, we launched our public information campaign for Weatherization Day in October. As we prepare to celebrate the 47th anniversary of Weatherization Day this fall, we are reminded of the collaboration and hard work of WAP Grantees, Subgrantees, and the many partners who work every day to alleviate the strain of continued heat waves on families and resources. Our upcoming Weatherization Day—the first in-person event at the Capitol in several years—will showcase this work and the importance of WAP in improving energy efficiency, quality of life, and the nation’s economy. By sharing Weatherization’s success stories and innovations, we can demonstrate to policymakers that their support of, and investment in, this bipartisan program is one way to help build resilient, safe, and economically strong communities in their districts.