A blower door test is one of the many diagnostic features employed by our program to ensure the highest energy savings possible for those we serve.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Policy Position: General Concerns and FY08 Funding

The Continuing Resolution in place for FY07 provided the Department of Energy with an unusual amount of discretion in determining the funding levels for programs like the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) that are not identified as a single line item in the federal budget. DOE opted to reduce the WAP funding from the FY06 level of $242.5 million to $204.5 million, or a $38 million cut from the previous year.

This funding reduction equates to at least 17,000 fewer households being served in FY07. For every million that is cut from our program 450-500 low-income families go without crucial energy efficiency measures on their homes. Such cuts are particularly devastating in light of the ever-increasing demand for WAP services by millions of households across the nation. Insufficient program funding causes these massive waiting lists and these lists will continue to grow if funding remains stagnant or is lowered.

Beyond the direct benefits provided to families who receive WAP services -like an average of $360 in first year energy savings, continued savings potential for many years in the future, and healthier and safer living conditions - there are countless positive environmental benefits. We reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil by the equivalent of 18 million barrels of oil per year. In fact, an average of 30.5 million MBtu of energy is saved as a result of WAP services - equaling nearly a 25 percent reduction in primary heating fuel use by those homes being weatherized.

We are grateful to Senator Sanders (R-VT) for recognizing the many benefits of our program and including an amendment to the 2007 Iraq War Supplemental. This provision would have restored an additional $25 million in WAP funds for FY07. Unfortunately, this language was dropped in the Joint Conference and funding remains at the $204.5 million level for 2007.

As the FY08 budget and appropriations process begins, the Administration provided the first challenge to WAP by again reducing their 2008 request another $20 million -from $164 million in 2007 to $144 million in 2008. This is far below what Congress supported in 2007 and what the program requires to support its infrastructure and to maintain its core capacity to serve in every political subdivision of the country.

Fortunately, Congress is already demonstrating its support for the WAP. In May, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee reported its FY08 markups including $245.5 million for the WAP, a 20% increase above the DOE 2007 funding level. This bill made it to full committee without amendments and includes language
that will allow 2008 funds to be drawn down early to compensate for the FY07 loss.

We thank Chairman Visclosky (D-IN) and Ranking Member Hobson (R-OH) for their support of the WAP through these critical funds. We have held several meetings with Senate staff and have related our desire to receive a comparable (or higher) funding level offered by the House. We hope that the value of this excellent program will be recognized, and that the WAP will receive the highest funding possible so that the network can continue to serve as the nation's leader in home energy conservation.

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