An Overview of the Government's Weatherization Assistance Program
The U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) enables low-income families to permanently reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. Created in 1976, the Weatherization Assistance Program has provided weatherization services to more than 6.2 million low-income families. WAP is operated in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Native American tribes, and has begun offering services to U.S. Territories effective in 2009.
A well-insulated house won't just save a homeowner money, it will also benefit the environment. The less energy that is expended to heat or cool a home, the less pollution emitted. Designed primarily to assist low-income families,elderly, people with disabilities, and children, the government program allows these families to live in a more healthy, safe environment with the money saved on energy bills each month being applied to other critical needs.
The program is run individually by each state. The first step is to determine if you are eligible - the DOE website provides an easy to use guide that you can use to obtain the phone, e-mail, and street address of the director of the state office and program manager for the Weatherization Assistance Program in your state. Eligibility is based on national guidelines for income levels, but each state is able to establish their own rules based on these national guidelines.
Here are some general guidelines taken from the DOE Website:
- If you receive Supplemental Security Income or Aid to Families with Dependent Children, you are automatically eligible to receive weatherization services.
- Depending on what state you live in, you are eligible for weatherization if your income falls below the "200% poverty level" as defined in the DOE Poverty Income Guidelines. In general, this about $44,000 a year for a family of four.
- Preference is given to individuals over 60 years of age.
- Preference is given to families with one or more members with a disability.
- Preference is given to families with children (in most states).
How do I apply? The process looks to be fairly easy:
- Identify and contact your state agency using the link above.
- Come in to the office and fill out an application - bring proof of income for the past year.
- Once your eligibility is determined, you will be placed on a waiting list according to need.
- A professional energy consultation will be completed on your home by local agencies and will outline the most cost-effective energy conservation measures for your home.
- The local weatherization agency will schedule the appropriate work, which typically will take 1-2 days at an average cost of $6500.
Who can apply? Whether you own or rent, live in a single-family home, multi-family housing complex, or a mobile home, you can apply for assistance. If you rent, you must get written permission from your landlord before weatherization services can be performed.
If I meet the income guidelines and all specified criteria, am I guaranteed acceptance in the program? Funding can be an issue because Congress allocates a certain amount of funding for the program on a national level, and it varies from year to year. The good news is, that 2009 Recovery Act and Weatherization Funding The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program will distribute $5 billion to the states under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. This additional funding should guarantee that eligible applicants will receive weatherization services in a timely manner. At the time of this article posting, the DOE released an initial $80 million in weatherization funding from the Recovery Act to the first four states, namely Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, and Oregon. For a complete list of planned weatherization funding by state for the Recovery Act, click here.
Some Weatherization Program facts taken from the DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Website:
- Weatherization measures reduce national energy demand by the equivalent of 18 million barrels of oil per year.
- In 2009, an estimated 100,000 homes will be weatherized with DOE funds.
- An average of 30.5 million MBtu of energy per household is saved as a result of Weatherization, which equates to a 23% reduction in primary heating fuel use.
- Low income families will save an average of $413 in reduced first-year energy costs, at current prices.
- Weatherization creates 52 direct jobs and 23 indirect jobs for every $1 million invested.
- Weatherization mitigates approximately 1.61 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year in a home heated primarily with natural gas and even more for homes heated with fuel oil.
- Weatherization creates non-energy benefits as well, including increased property value, reduced incidence of fire, reduced utility arrearages and bad debt, federal taxes generated from employment, income generated from indirect employment, avoided costs of unemployment benefits, and reduced pollution.
- For each $1 invested in the Program, Weatherization returns $2.72 in energy and non-energy related benefits.