MaineHousing, community action agencies, and 2-1-1 recognize program’s role
AUGUSTA – As the days get colder, Mainers are tightening up their homes to reduce energy consumption and lower energy costs. This week officially marks the 40th Anniversary of the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps families in need.
MaineHousing, the nine community action agencies throughout Maine, and 2-1-1 Maine, a service of the United Way, are marking the milestone by recognizing the important work that’s being done to assist Mainers seeking help to keep their homes warm in the fall and winter months.
In the last 40 years, more than 70,600 homes in Maine have been weatherized through the Weatherization Assistance Program. The services included air sealing, insulation, new energy-efficient windows, or the replacement of broken heating systems. Nationally, 7.4 million homes have been weatherized under this program.
Heating costs of low-income households can be as much as three times higher than a household with higher incomes, said MaineHousing Director John Gallagher. One dollar of weatherization funds invested yields approximately $4.10 in energy, health, and safety savings, and can reduce annual heating costs by $250-$400 annually, which is money that can be spent on necessities such as groceries or medicine.
“A warm home saves lives,” Director Gallagher said. “It reduces illnesses, thus cutting the number of missed school days and lost work hours.”
Mainers seeking weatherization services apply for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at their local community action agency, and are assessed at that time for weatherization. The agencies receive more than 55,000 LIHEAP applications each year.
“For our elderly family members or neighbors, heat is a necessity as they are more susceptible to cold and more prone to illness,” Gallagher said. “Caregivers are asked to check on them and help put them in touch with a community action agency if they are in need of assistance.”
The Opportunity Alliance has weatherized more than 800 homes though the Weatherization Assistance Program and LIHEAP. Tara Kosma, Vice President of Programs at The Opportunity Alliance, said weatherization programs create jobs as community action agencies contract with local companies to provide the services.
“Qualified households receive efficiency upgrades in the form of added insulation and air sealing, which improve heating and close cold air penetrations in the home,” Kosma said. “In addition, the weatherization program identifies potential health and safety risks in the home, makes upgrades or repairs to existing systems, and makes repairs or replacements of malfunctioning or underperforming items that reduce risk to the occupants and the structure.”
Since the beginning of 2-1-1 in 2006, the program has partnered with MaineHousing to assist the citizens of Maine help identify and connect with weatherization and heating assistance resources, said Robbie Lipsman, project coordinator for 2-1-1 Maine.
“Heating assistance remains one of the most needed resources in Maine,” Lipsman said. “Last year, we received over 7,745 calls requesting information for heating and utility allowance information. We help households connect to Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, weatherization programs, help with utility bill payment services, and other housing service.”
The federal Weatherization Assistance Program was signed into law by President Gerald Ford in 1976 in response to requests for services to help lower-income households hit particularly hard by the energy crisis of the 1970s. It is administered through the U.S. Department of Energy. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, administered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, also provides funding for weatherization services. Both programs are overseen in Maine by MaineHousing.
MEDIA: Pictures of a Scarborough home undergoing weatherization services are attached as well as located on MaineHousing’s Facebook page.
Also, Maine is considered to be the birthplace of weatherization. Learn more about Maine’s role in weatherization in a Powerpoint presentation on MaineHousing’s website.
The mission of MaineHousing is to assist Maine people to obtaining and maintaining quality affordable housing and services suitable to their housing needs. Please visit our Web site at www.mainehousing.org.
MaineHousing does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, age, physical or mental disability, or familial status in the admission or access to, or treatment or employment in, its programs, and activities. MaineHousing will provide appropriate communication auxiliary aids and services upon sufficient notice. MaineHousing will also provide this document in alternative formats upon sufficient notice. MaineHousing has designated the following person responsible for coordinating compliance with applicable federal and state nondiscrimination requirements and addressing grievances: Louise Patenaude, MaineHousing, 353 Water Street, Augusta, Maine 04330-4633, Telephone Number 1 800 452 4668 (voice in state only), (207) 626 4600 (voice), or Maine Relay 711.
Deborah Turcotte is MaineHousing’s public information manager. Media may reach her at (207) 626-4600.