A few governors have developed fresh approaches to spending weatherization assistance funds, but it’s not yet clear their plans are improvements over the tried and true
May 12 was the deadline for states to submit applications for Weatherization Assistance Program grants. In most cases, the Department of Energy, which manages the program and reviews weatherization grant applications, is expected to announce application approvals in June, and then release the funds that have been allocated to each state.
There might be a few exceptions, though. As a story published this week by Stateline.org points out, governors in a few states have developed proposals that they believe will expedite weatherization activity – in other words, create jobs and complete energy efficiency upgrades more quickly than they might be using the nonprofit community organizations that have been weatherizing low-income homes for more than three decades – but their approval by the DOE isn’t guaranteed.
Stateline.org notes, for example, that Texas plans to give half of its $326 million weatherization allotment to mayors in cities with populations of 75,000 or more rather than distributing it to the community action agencies that have done the work in the past. In Houston, the story explains, Mayor Bill White hopes to weatherize homes in “neighborhood sweeps” instead of on a house-by-house, case-by-case basis. A possible snag to that idea might lie in federal analyses that indicate sweeps tend to yield poorer efficiency results in each home, and also include households that don’t meet the DOE’s income eligibility requirements.
Missouri also has pitched a sweeps proposal for 40 percent of its $128 million weatherization allotment, which would solicit competitive-bid proposals that would pool weatherization money with other housing assistance programs. A bidding process – to include bids from homebuilders as well as community groups – also is part of a proposal developed by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels for the state’s entire $132 million weatherization allocation.
And in Massachusetts, the plan is to use about a quarter of its $122 million weatherization allocation for improvements in state and privately owned public housing. The potential problem: Weatherization program rules require that low-income tenants, not the landlords operating their buildings, benefit from the improvements.
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