Great Lakes Community Action Partnership Housing & Energy Director Terry Jacobs appeared before the U.S. House of Representatives' Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee at a Feb. 13 hearing regarding the Home Weatherization Assistance Program (HWAP) and its impact on communities.
GLCAP was invited to the hearing by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-9), who serves as chairperson of the subcommittee.
Jacobs explained how GLCAP implements the weatherization program in its northwest Ohio service region that includes Erie, Huron, Ottawa, Sandusky, Seneca and Wood counties. HWAP improves home energy efficiency and utility usage for low-income households through the installing insulation, sealing air ducts, and implementing other measures. The program reduces energy expenditures for participants as well as improves the safety of their homes.
“Many times folks are forced to make difficult choices between paying higher utility bills and paying for medical bills and food,” Jacobs said. “This program helps reduce the burden of those choices for those folks.”
When GLCAP (then WSOS Community Action Commission) hosted a Weatherization Day event at an Oak Harbor residence in 2017, Rep. Kaptur visited the event to see the home first-hand, meet the homeowner and learn about the specifics of weatherization. That year, GLCAP weatherized 142 homes. Jacobs thanked Rep. Kaptur for her continued interest in weatherization and also noted that GLCAP frequently receives thank you letters from residents who are grateful for the program.
“These letters often touch on how the program has impacted their lives by lowering heating and electric bills, and made their home safer and more comfortable to live in,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs joined three other witnesses during the hearing, including Annamaria Garcia, U.S. Department of Energy Weatherization and Intergovernmental Programs Office director; Amy Klusmeier, National Association for State Community Services Program Weatherization Assistance Program director; and Michael Furze, Washington State Department of Commerce, Energy Division, assistant director.
Witnesses gave a comprehensive overview of the weatherization program, including improvements that could be made to better assist low-income households through HWAP.
Jacobs supported weatherization’s drive to add additional health and safety measures such as addressing indoor air quality, lead and radon in homes. He noted that these measures also need funding for the added labor and material costs, and production goals need to be adjusted to allow for the additional time needed to address these concerns.
Jacobs also stressed that added funding would help agencies retain and competitively compensate weatherization crew staff for their work.
“The work these folks do is highly important, and we need to retain them to deliver the best services possible,” Jacobs told the committee. “Raising the cost ceiling and allowing more flexibility in funds would be most helpful to address this growing challenge.”