Governor Mark Dayton today proclaimed October 30, 2013 Weatherization Day in the State of Minnesota. The proclamation recognizes the efforts of Minnesota’s Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps low-income families reduce their energy bills permanently by making their homes safer, healthier, and more energy efficient.
“The Commerce Department’s Weatherization Assistance Program has been a national leader in delivering cost-effective weatherization services – helping to seal air leaks and insulate homes and ensuring that home heating systems are efficient and safe,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “The program reduces the energy costs for our state’s most needy citizens and contributes greatly to reducing energy consumption.”
Job creator, economy booster
Weatherization is recognized as a job creator. Nationally, the Department of Energy (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program was one of the leading job-creating partnerships out of the 200 federal programs funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In Minnesota, the Weatherization Assistance Program created or retained nearly 500 jobs per quarter during the height of the economic downturn, September 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011. The program generated jobs for the construction industry and created expanded partnerships with local gas and electric utilities.
The economic benefits of weatherization also provide a ripple effect. A University of Minnesota Extension study found that for every direct job funded by weatherization, an additional three-quarters of a job was created in the state’s private sector. The study also concluded that each dollar spent on weatherization generated an additional $1.09, on average, of economic activity in Minnesota. For every dollar earned by a weatherization worker, an additional 86 cents was earned by workers in other state industries.
“Weatherization is a win-win-win program: it saves energy, creates jobs, and enhances the environment by reducing carbon dioxide levels,” said Rothman.
The Minnesota Weatherization Program was one of the nation’s top performing programs from 2009-2011, when it received $138 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. It exceeded its goal of weatherizing 16,858 homes for the three-year period.
A year ago, Minnesota’s Weatherization Assistance Program received no funding from DOE, due in part to the federal sequestration of funds. On June 23 of this year, the program learned it would receive $4 million from DOE for program year 2013 (July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014), a total still far short of the $10 million it would receive in a normal funding year.
“Our Weatherization program has received funding help from its companion program, the Energy Assistance Program,” said Mike Rothman, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce. “It received $10 million from Energy Assistance last year, and it will get $10 million again this year to help sustain the program. But it can’t rely on Energy Assistance funding each year. We need Congress to restore funding of old to keep Weatherization strong for years to come.”
The hope is that DOE will again fund the program to normal levels—about $10 million a year for Minnesota. A bill currently in Congress (“Weatherization Enhancement, and Local Energy Efficiency Investment and Accountability Act”) is seeking to reauthorize the Weatherization Assistance Program and State Energy Program and restore funding to normal levels for 2014-2018.
The need for the Weatherization Assistance and Low-Income Heating Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) programs is great: About 160,000 households in Minnesota apply for the two programs each year. Most of the applicants will receive financial assistance from LIHEAP, but only approximately 3,000 a year receive help through the Weatherization Assistance Program in a normal funding year.
Steady federal funding needed to help program thrive
This year, the Minnesota Weatherization Assistance Program is getting $4 million from DOE and $10 million from the Energy Assistance Program. The Minnesota Legislature also recognized the critical role that the Weatherization Program plays for low-income Minnesotans by appropriating $2 million in state funds to supplement the program for this year. The $16 million is enough to sustain services provided by 30 local service providers statewide, but steady federal funding is needed for the program to thrive going forward.
The Weatherization Assistance Program has been at the heart of the federal government’s energy efficiency strategy for 36 years, assisting low-income families who lack the resources to make their homes safer and more energy efficient. The goal is to reduce energy costs for low-income families. The services make homes more energy efficient through air sealing, wall and attic insulation, and repairs or replacement of home heating systems. For every dollar invested in Weatherization, participating American homeowners have saved more than $2.50 on their energy costs.
Minnesota has documented many Weatherization successes. Families receiving services realize annual energy bill reductions of up to $400 per household.
For more information on the state’s Weatherization Assistance Program, visit http://mn.gov/commerce/energy and click on “financial assistance,” or call 800-657-3710.