Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What should be the goal of the Low Income Energy Assistance and Weatherization Programs?????

My understanding of the program

The Department of Public Welfare has updated Pennsylvania’s proposed Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) State Plan for the Federal Fiscal Year 2010. LIHEAP is a federally-funded program which enables the commonwealth to help households with low incomes meet their home heating needs. LIEAP Credits are based on household size, household income and the type of fuel used as the primary heating source. Payments are made directly to the fuel provider.
Problem - where is the insentive to make the home or apartment more energy efficient or to conserve ! If we just keep paying the heating cost - the cost is going to go up and up and we are wasting more and more energy.

Crisis Assistance:
Help is available to eligible clients facing an emergency: A life or health threatening situation, deposit funds for a fuel hook-up or to avoid a shut-off, or a heating system failure during winter months. For more information, please contact the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095, Monday through Friday (individuals with hearing impairments may call the TDD number at 1-800-451-5886).

We need to be there for the Critical need, but for an inefficient poorly built apartment we are wasting money in the long-term. We need to support the program, but a portion of the funding should go to long-term changes and improvements - Not Just Weatherization. Many places need new windows, doors, and even insulation !
Does this require a change in the Federal Program?

What is Weatherization
Typical measures addressed by the Weatherization program are: Monitoring for unsafe conditions such as carbon monoxide leaks, poor ventilation and wiring, tuning and adjusting the heating system, wrapping pipes and water heaters, sealing major air leaks and caulking, insulating attics, floors, walls, ceilings and bellies of mobile homes.
In my company a non-profit provides this weatherization assistance for free to individuals living in apartments. When I asked if the landlord has to pay back the cost for the improvement, I was told that he does not, but he is required to sign an agreement he would not increase the rent. That is a joke.

My recommendation

1. We need to provide assistance as hopefully a short-term program.

2. When individuals come into this program, if they are a homeowner - they should be give the option of getting a grant or allocation to make the home more efficient. Put in new windows, insulation, and install energy efficient practices that should allow them to pay their own bills. They would not be eligible for the program unless their was a lose of empolyment or medical, but the payments would be put on as a lien against the real estate.

3. Individuals in an appartment or Section 8 housing - they should not get this at all. The landlords should be required to make the homes energy efficient as a requirement to be able to rent the unit or be part of Section 8 housing. I was in one apartment that rented for $ 450.00 per month plus utilities - the winter gas bill was over $ 600.00 per month. Even after putting plastic and sealing all of the windows- which filled up like ballons - the cold area was coming through the walls - there was no insulation.

We should realize that "money does not grow on trees" and that we have to invest in our infrastructure and our people. Landlords must take the responsibility as a citizen to do their part to make our county efficient.

Just my thoughts - let look to the short term and the long term. We need to encourage people to save, pay their own bills, take responsibility for their decisions, but at the same time be a good neighbor and help.

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