Community Action Fears Funding Cuts

CLEARFIELD – A bill headed for the U.S. Senate floor after the November elections would cancel some local weatherization projects scheduled for next year in Centre and Clearfield counties, according to Central Pennsylvania Community Action Inc.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has reported legislation that includes a 16 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Energy’s $242 million Weatherization Assistance Program. Locally, Weatherization Assistance managed by Central Pennsylvania Community Action Inc. is on target to improve energy efficiency in at least 183 homes by March 2007. The cuts would reduce that number for the following year.

“Over the past five years, Central Pennsylvania Community Action Inc. has helped to lower the annual energy bills of 1,832 low-income households by 20 to 30 percent by weather-proofing older homes and improving the efficiency of heating and cooling systems and appliances,” said Dale Knepp, weatherization department manager from Central Pennsylvania Community Action Inc.

“Our weatherization work force is on the front line of America’s struggle for energy independence. If this weatherization cut is approved, I’m afraid we will be forced to turn away over 60 working families and retirees of very modest means. The demand for heating oil, natural gas, propane and electricity that we could have reduced by improving their homes and equipment will continue to drive up everyone’s cost,” Knepp said.

A cut in WAP assistance would hurt communities nationwide, according to David Bradley, executive director for the National Community Action Foundation, the Washington advocate for the Community Action Agencies that provide weatherization services to low-income homes.

This year, the Weatherization Assistance Program is expected to help nearly 100,000 low-income Americans nationwide cut their heating bills by up to 30 percent, Bradley said.

“By slashing program funding, an estimated 20,000 American low-wage workers and retires on fixed income will lose access to these permanent improvements to lower their energy use.”
 
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a $12 million increase for next year’s program.

In doing so, the House rejected President Bush’s proposal to cut the program by 30 percent in 2007. Hugh Daly, executive director; Stacy LoCastro, deputy director; and Knepp issed a statement urging Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum to reject these proposed cuts and to provide at least the current funding level for this effective program.

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