BEDFORD COUNTY, Pa (WTAJ)– The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) that aims to help homeowners receive energy efficiency upgrades is not reaching as many people.
This federal program reduces energy costs to homes by adding energy-saving changes, which could mean adjusting insulation or sealing windows and doors.
The U.S Department of Energy said this program saves people an average of $372 annually. Through the Infrastructure Bill, additional funding of 3.16 billion dollars will go towards the WAP.
Director of Weatherization and Housing for the Center for Community Action Diana Dick said that the people that use this program in the counties she covers save 30%. She noted that with the high prices nationwide, that discount could go a long way.
“People notice a huge difference once we insulate their homes and provide floor or side insulation,” Dick said. “It can reduce their heating costs up to 30 percent.”
People who qualify for the program must be valid homeowners or renters making at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. Trailer homes, single-family homes, or apartments with no common areas are the primary building they renovate.
However, not many people are receiving assistance due to those being deferred. When someone is deferred, it usually means it’s an underlying issue affecting contractors’ safety.
Dick noted that it’s not often that they deferred people in her counties: Cambria, Bedford, and Fulton. But some reasons people could be deferred include molding, hoarding, infestation, or structural issues.
“We really can’t tighten up a home if there’s a lot of moisture or mold because if we do that, then it will remain in the home, and it can affect someone’s health,” Dick said.
Dick said each home averages about $8,003 in funding for the entire project for this year. It’s their goal to help 65 different houses using this program.
In addition to the deferrals, Dick said that all agencies struggle to get contractors certified for weatherization projects. It’s a state requirement for those to do weatherization to get the specific training. The agency has two in-house contractors, but they spend most of their time finding subcontractors to meet their goals.
“All agencies across the state are struggling for contractors,” Dick said. “A lot of the contractors in our area are considering retiring, and there are just not a lot of young contractors out there.”
If someone does get deferred, the Center for Community Action allows for a period to fix the issue or enroll in their rehabilitation program. The housing rehabilitation program is to help homeowners bring their homes to safe conditions, including plumbing, roofing, electrical, etc.
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The state created a new program to help address the issue called the Whole Home Repairs Program, which will allocate $125 million to help with necessary repairs. That could hopefully increase the capacity for those that apply and develop more skilled workers to repair.
Dick believes that if agencies had similar programs to help people apply for WAP, it would make a difference. She thinks that agencies don’t have these programs cause of funding and capacity issues.
“I think if they do some of these repairs within the organizations across the state, it’ll be a big help,” Dick said. “It can be costly to remediate water coming in and laying in the basements. Maybe their foundations need a lot of work which is out of the scope of the weatherization program.”