Cuts Made on the Backs of Low-Income Americans
Weatherization Funding Slashed by 60% for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012
The FY 2012 Omnibus Appropriations bill, filed late on December 15, 2011 by the House Rules Committee, contained a stunning 60% cut to the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), down to $68 million from $174.3 million in FY 2011. This is the lowest funding level since 1978, the year after the program’s inception in 1977. The drastic cut to the program will severely scale back the ability of the WAP Network agencies across the country to provide safe energy-efficient housing for low-income Americans. The bill also contains language for a $1.2 billion reduction of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a critical program that helps low-income families survive the harsh winter months. LIHEAP will receive $3.5 billion for FY 2012, down from $4.7 billion in FY 2011.
“We are deeply disappointed that just at the onset of the winter season, Congress has chosen to make cuts to the Weatherization Assistance Program and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program – two fundamentally sound programs that enhance America’s energy independence and help provide adequate shelter for low-income Americans,” said Tim Warfield, Executive Director of the National Association for State Community Services Programs (NASCSP).
“At a time when the Census Bureau data shows that nearly one out of every two Americans is living at or near the poverty level, Congress has elected instead to spend more on energy research and other program areas that do not help low-income Americans nor address immediate needs.”
Steve Payne, who administers WAP for the state of Washington said, “This is really a slap in the face not just to the people served by the program but to anybody who pays energy bills. The Weatherization Assistance Program has a longstanding proven track record of high value and return on investment.”
WAP reduces energy use by approximately 35% for hundreds of thousands of homeowners each year. Warfield said, “The energy savings provided by the Weatherization Assistance Program is especially significant to low-income families because they typically need to spend as much as 14.4% of their total household income on energy.”
Warfield added, “This is thin gruel indeed, at the holiday season for the millions of Americans who depend on these programs to reduce the burden wrought by the economic downturn and the high cost of energy. Shame on Congress for literally pulling the plug on the working poor and low-income families.”
NASCSP will continue to work hard to see that these programs receive sustainable funding into the future. Weatherization works, both for the households served and as a sound government investment. Throughout its history, WAP has made a huge positive impact on nearly 7 million families. The program provides significant energy savings for its recipients, makes America’s housing stock more energy efficient, improves indoor air quality while reducing health and safety risks, provides jobs, reduces carbon emissions, and lessens America’s dependence on foreign oil.
We call upon all Americans to contact their members of Congress to express their anger and disappointment with this very shortsighted funding decision. The budget cannot and should not be balanced on the backs of our must vulnerable citizens.
Alice Gaston firstname.lastname@example.org (202) 403-8630