The first day of Spring should put me in a good mood. Most of my friends and family living north of the Sunshine State should be enjoying some reprieve from the winter. In a few short weeks, cherry blossoms will bloom in our nation’s capital. So uplifting is the sight of this event that workers take a little time off during lunch to walk around the Tidal Basin and take in the beauty of nature during this time of year.
One federal employee in particular is seemingly not moved by this springtime display of color – so unmoved that his budget casts a frosty pall on the energy fortunes of America’s low income population.
Recently, President Trump released his fiscal year 2018 budget. To my dismay, he has recommended the elimination of the federal Weatherization Assistance Program. The Weatherization Assistance Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Energy, is in essence a “whole-house, energy efficiency program.” According to the Department, the Weatherization Assistance Program’s primary mission is:
- “[T]o increase the energy efficiency of dwellings owned or occupied by low income persons, reduce their total residential energy expenditures, and improve their health and safety, especially low income persons who are particularly vulnerable such as the elderly, the disabled, and children.”
The average amount received by a household in the Weatherization Assistance program is $6,500. Since its inception in 1976, the Weatherization Assistance Program has served over seven million households.
The President gives no explanation for his draconian action toward the Weatherization Assistance Program. When describing in his budget the wholesale elimination of other programs, President Trump imagines that there has been little to no success with a respective program given the level of expenditures on that program. If this general reasoning applies specifically to the Weatherization Assistance Program, then evidence from the Energy Department would show that President Trump’s reasoning is faulty.
As I shared earlier, the Weatherization Assistance Program has served seven million households and according to the Energy Department, the program has been an overwhelming success. The energy efficiency savings averages $283 per year per household. For every dollar spent by the Program, an average of $2.78 in non-energy benefits is returned.
The Weatherization Assistance Program’s success permeates the economy as well. According to the Energy Department, thousands of living-wage jobs are supported by the Program, and because of the technical aspects of retrofitting homes for energy efficiency, these jobs tend to be high-skilled jobs, high-paid jobs.
Given the positive benefits of the Weatherization Assistance Program, I find it difficult to imagine Congress going along with the Administration’s recommendation to eliminate the program. Unless the Trump administration reverses course on its proposal, the cherry blossoms will wilt before they get a chance to bloom.