In 1976, the federal government created the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) in the Department of Energy (DOE). Oil prices were sky-high, and the poor and the elderly could not afford to keep their houses warm in winter -- often because their homes lacked insulation, or the windows wouldn't close, or the boiler did not work properly – and they could not afford repairs.
WAP came to the rescue, insulating attics and walls, replacing windows, and repairing or replacing inefficient furnaces.
Since 1976, 6.4 million low-income Americans have benefitted from the Weatherization Assistance Program. Families receiving WAP services see their annual energy bills reduced on average by $437, depending on fuel prices. The energy improvements that weatherization provides are long-lived, so the savings add up over time to substantial benefits for WAP recipients, their communities, and the nation.
Also, very importantly, by bringing energy efficiency to homes and buildings throughout the country, WAP reduces the emissions that are wreaking havoc with our environment.
But Republicans in Congress are vowing to cut the WAP budget so severely, that the program would not be able to function. They call the program wasteful, not realizing that, by saving people money on energy bills, weatherization enables homeowners to spend money on goods and services. They don't realize that, by employing people to provide weatherization, WAP is creating jobs.
We cannot let Congress kill the Weatherization Assistance Program: for the poor, for the environment, for the economy of this country. A strong public statement could save WAP.
The Republicans seem to feel that providing insulation, working furnaces and energy-efficient appliances to 6.4 million U.S. citizens – something that WAP has achieved since its start in 1976 – is a waste of government resources.
Community Environmental Center (CEC) disagrees. As a weatherization provider in New York City since 1994, CEC has seen the benefits of weatherization first-hand: elderly couples finally able to afford their energy bills; parents and their children being warm and healthy during the winter for the first time in years; at-risk young people learning weatherization skills and embarking on serious careers.
Imagine: the Republicans believe that high fuel bills and high unemployment are better options than refunding the Weatherization Assistance Program.
Mr. President, CEC is asking you and your administration to support full funding for the federal Weatherization Assistance Program in 2012. Protect the poor and the elderly in their homes.
Richard Cherry, President, Community Environmental Center