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The Government Shutdown and WAP



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The government reopened on October 17, after a 16-day shutdown. Early on October 17, the President signed legislation reopening the federal government and funding it through January 15th as well as extending the debt ceiling until February 7, 2014. The funding is set at the House Republican-backed level of $986 billion, with a continuation of sequestration. This means that, for the next 90 days, federal programs will be funded at last year’s level. 

For the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), the interim Continuing Resolution (CR) funds WAP at $68M. Since the Program Year 2014 WAP funding cycle does not start until April 1, 2014, the current CR may not be a final funding figure for WAP. We will keep you informed as things progress



Posted by: Rebecca Stewart at 11:08 AM
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WAP Program Year 2012 Funding Survey Now Available



Tuesday, June 11, 2013
The WAP 2012 Program Year (PY 2012) Funding Survey is now available on waptac.org here.

The National Association for State Community Services Programs (NASCSP) WAP Funding Survey is the only comprehensive measure of all funds, including non-DOE funds, used in the Program. Each year, the survey catalogues the funding and production levels for each Grantee of the Program as well as the source of that funding. This includes the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), utility funds, and state funds among others.

Some highlights from this year include:
  • An estimated $892,258,149 will be available to Grantees of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Low-Income Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) for PY 2012 (April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013 for some Grantees and July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013 for others) in regular DOE, LIHEAP, and Other funds, such as utility funds.
  • A national network of Grantees, local agencies, and private contractors will use these annual grant funds to weatherize an estimated 129,015 low-income homes.
  • In PY 2012, WAP will leverage approximately $685,708,147 in federal, Grantee, and private funds, or approximately $3.42 in federal and non-federal resources for every dollar invested by DOE. These figures include LIHEAP funding.
  • Grantees were expected to weatherize 634,956 total units using Recovery Act funds. In the third year of Recovery Act funding, Grantees weatherized 366,454 homes towards their goal. The WAP network has exceeded the production goals set by DOE for the Recovery Act by nearly 160,000 units.

The composition of funds changes over time, the below graph shows how the distribution of DOE, LIHEAP, and Other funds has changed since 2002.

Composition of Funds over time 2002-2012

Past year’s funding surveys are also available on waptac.org here.

Posted by: Alice Gaston at 11:37 AM
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Pennsylvania Performs Survey of Household Satisfaction, Finds Weatherization is a Positive Experience for Clients



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Due to a large influx of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) funds, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) decided to perform a survey measuring the Weatherization Assistance Program’s (WAP) impact of services on participants and their satisfaction with the result. This survey provides a basis for future evaluation and sheds light on areas of potential improvement as well as data critical to the successful expansion of the Pennsylvania Recovery Act WAP program.

DCED received 7,044 completed survey forms from households weatherized between July 1, 2010 and December 31, 2011. Significant findings include:

  • Over 75% of participants were pleased with improvements to their homes, contact with local agencies, and the quality of work completed.
  • Over the survey period, participant satisfaction either remained steady or increased.
  • Employees got the highest marks, with the highest satisfaction levels in the areas of “friendly employees” and “installers of the energy efficient products.”

More than three-quarters of respondents strongly agreed that they had a good experience, that the local agency understood their needs, that the contact with the local agency was excellent, and that the improvements will make their homes more comfortable and more energy efficient.

Consumer education is a critical component of any weatherization program. Nearly all survey respondents (98%) indicated that they changed their behavior due to weatherization services. The actions taken most often include turning off lights and fans when not in the room, setting the thermostat lower at certain times of day, and doing fuller loads of laundry.

Handwritten comments show the impact and success of the program, with submissions like, “I was very pleased with the work that was done. They also took the time to fix things I did not know about. I couldn't ask for a better group of guys to do the work. They were friendly and very professional. Thank you so much.”

Performing surveys such as the one by DCED provides invaluable feedback to states and local agencies to ensure services are adequately and fully provided, and that participants are happy with the work done. We applaud the Pennsylvania DCED for their proactive approach to evaluating WAP performance and their excellent program.

You can read the full report here.


Posted by: Rebecca Stewart at 1:30 PM
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WAPTAC Updates



Monday, June 27, 2011
You may have noticed the WAPTAC.org homepage was updated a few weeks ago. The new WAPTAC.org homepage features the WX Plus Health Initiative with information about the initiative, opportunities to register for regional conferences, and information from past conferences. Additionally, new buttons were added to the right side of the homepage for easier navigation.

A few features were moved to accommodate the changes. Ask the Experts, Meet our Experts, and Expert Questions and Answers have all been moved to the Best Practices tab on the Homepage.  All other information and pages remained the same.

Other new changes to look forward to in the coming on WAPTAC include an updated Health and Safety section to reflect the changes in WPN 11-6.

Posted by: Alice Gaston at 11:16 AM
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Senate Appropriations Committee: LIHEAP 2011 Funding Level



Thursday, July 29, 2010
As most Grantees receive LIHEAP funding for their Weatherization Programs, the below is relevant to the WAP. 

The Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday provided $3.2 billion for LIHEAP for FY 2011, the same level as requested by the President, but $1.9 billion less than the $5.1 billion provided by the House Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, ED appropriations. Senate table on Labor/HHS spending 

In terms of schedule, it is increasingly likely that Congress will not finish the appropriations process prior to the November elections. 

Posted by: Rebecca Stewart at 2:16 PM
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Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development: 2011 WAP at $200 million



Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development has released their report for 2011, which gives $200 million for the Weatherization Assistance Program, with $30 million of that set aside for innovations. The text reads:

Weatherization Assistance Program.—The Committee provides $200,000,000. Of that amount, $7,500,000 is for training and technical assistance and $30,000,000 is for innovations in weatherization requested in the budget. The Committee notes that this program received $5,000,000,000 in the Recovery Act in addition to current year appropriations, and that prior appropriated balances are more than sufficient to carry the existing program into fiscal year 2012 without further appropriation.

At this time, the final funding level for the WAP is uncertain.  We will keep you informed as things progress.

Posted by: Rebecca Stewart at 2:08 PM
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House Energy and Water Subcommittee: WAP at $340 Million



Thursday, July 22, 2010

We are pleased to pass along the news that the House Committee on Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee released the 2011 Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Bill, which includes $340 million for the Weatherization Assistance Program, $40 million above the Obama Administration's request. Congressman Pastor's Statement for Energy Efficiency says, "For everything from cars to air conditioners, the cheapest way to get more energy is to use less of it. This bill invests in Department of Energy activities that will develop technologies to make cars, homes, buildings, and industry consume less energy by using it more efficiently."

This was especially good news in light of recent rumors that WAP funding might be eliminated because of the perception that there are substantial funds from ARRA to sustain the program in 2011.  Although reassuring, there is still a lot to be done before we reach any degree of comfort.  The Senate has not yet begun its Appropriations bills.   There is major concern about the Federal deficit with enormous pressure to cut spending, with domestic discretionary programs particularly vulnerable.  Outcomes of the November mid-term elections may also play a huge role in determining 2011 funding.

Some of this may seem beyond the control of Weatherization managers.  But there are two very important things that the WAP network can do:

  1. Continue to increase the ARRA production and expenditures that in recent months have changed the perception of WAP from being ineffective to one of the success stories of the Recovery Act, and
  2. Get out the message in local communities that the Weatherization Assistance Program has overcome the early obstacles with ARRA and is now operating a full capacity and fulfilling the objectives of the Recovery Act.  It is critical that the WAP network tell its story - please encourage site demonstrations, press releases, and other means of increasing the awareness of WAP successes to policymakers, stakeholders, and the public.

In addition to the WAP markup of $340 million, other markups from yesterday that may be of interest to WAP managers are:

  • CSBG - $800 million ($100 million increase over FY 2010 and the Administration's 2011 request)
  • LIHEAP - $5.1 billion (same as FY 2010 and significantly more than the Administration's 2011 request)
  • SEP - $50 million ($25 million less that Administration's request)

 


Posted by: Rebecca Stewart at 10:19 AM
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States Develop Task Force with HHS to Address Fraud Prevention in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program



Tuesday, July 06, 2010

State energy officials announced the formation of a joint task force to address issues concerning waste, fraud and abuse in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Established by National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA) in conjunction with the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the task force is a response to a recent report by the US General Accountability Office (GAO) revealing the risk of fraud and abuse in the program due to a lack of systematic checking of applications and payments to utility vendors. 
 
“There is no question that all of the state LIHEAP directors strongly support the accurate and appropriate awarding of grants funds,” says Jo-Ann Choate, chair of NEADA. “Any dollar wasted is a dollar that cannot be used to help a needy family have access to energy assistance.”
 
To that end, the states are requesting full access from GAO to the files in question in order to assess the accuracy of the review, develop appropriate measures to prevent waste, and eliminate weaknesses in the in-take system. 
 
The task force will work with HHS to strengthen internal controls to ensure these funds are used properly.
 
While the purpose of the Task Force is to prevent waste, fraud and abuse in LIHEAP, it can only do so by addressing serious questions about the rate of error identified in the GAO report.  

  • Because the states have not had an opportunity to review the files GAO identified as suspicious, it is possible many of these cases are issues of paperwork, not fraud.  For example, a recently widowed elderly woman who qualifies for LIHEAP might include her husband’s name on the application so that it is consistent with the billing information her utility company has. Though the paperwork is inaccurate and must be updated, she is still eligible.

  • The GAO study reported that LIHEAP programs give low-income residents checks made out to ''Your Heating Supplier.'' In fact, vendor payments are generally marked with specific instructions to the bank that they are only to be deposited by the supplier. Some states pay LIHEAP benefits through the gas, electric and heating companies. A qualifying client’s account is credited with the benefit they are eligible for. No payment is issued directly to the client. In rare instances - generally during a home-energy emergency - a two-party check may be issued to the vendor and the client jointly. However, in all cases, the payment is provided only for the purpose intended.

  • In a letter to GAO commenting on their review of its program, the State of Ohio pointed out that draft report could be interpreted as finding widespread fraud in Ohio. However, the GAO identified only four questionable cases, with payments totaling $1,400. 

  • New York State also submitted a letter commenting on the GAO report that raised an important issue: federally mandated deadlines for the delivery of emergency assistance. As stated in the GAO report, federal LIHEAP funds are provided to assist households “in meeting their immediate home energy needs.” States have to move fast to meet household energy crises—within 18 to 48 hours, according to federal statutory requirements. The timeframe can make immediate fraud detection difficult. The state recommended, “Additional fraud and abuse prevention measures must take into account the need for states to be responsive to the immediate needs of eligible applicants.”

  • Lastly, one of the key issues raised by the GAO report is the lack of Social Security numbers required on LIHEAP applications. Because of privacy concerns, until recently HHS would not allow states to require Social Security numbers on applications. HHS has since clarified that states can now do so. Officials believe this will be a significant help in identifying ineligible applicants. New York’s letter also recommended this measure.

For the states, the bottom line is that all funds should be spent accurately and in accordance with program regulations, according to Mark Wolfe, executive director of NEADA. “We will be working closely with the HHS to identify all potential strategies to support this outcome,” Wolfe said. 
 
The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA) represents the state LIHEAP directors. www.neada.org.
 


Posted by: Rebecca Stewart at 11:41 AM
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