I guess it could have been worse. The House had wanted to reduce federal weatherization funding to $33 million from the 2011 figure of $174 million. Instead, the Omnibus bill that President Obama will presumably sign allocates $65 million.
As for LIHEAP funds, which in states like New York also go toward the weatherization of low-income homes, the Omnibus bill requires a cut from 2011’s $4.7 billion level to $3.5 billion – a 25% reduction but less of a slash than the President had proposed back in February.
We can be thankful that, due to the efforts of Congresspeople such as Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY) and of agencies around the country that wrote letters, sent petitions and blogged about the urgent need to preserve weatherization and LIHEAP, the funding still exists at all.
Still, there is the uncomfortable sense that weatherization is now positioned where the National Endowment for the Arts and the Public Broadcasting Service have been for years: so threatened with extinction that supporters are just gratified if the agencies are still standing by the time the next budget rolls around. The political goal becomes “please don’t cut so much” instead of “increase the budget.”
As President Obama and Congress vacation this holiday season, they might ponder that, even if energy prices continue to go down, low-income home owners, many of whom may be out of work, will have trouble affording the energy to keep them warm this winter – especially if their houses are drafty or their furnaces don’t run efficiently.
These folks will still need Weatherization, and there will be much less of it to go around.