|6, 2012 Volume 4, Issue 6|
The Weatherization PLUS Newsletter
Economic Opportunity Studies, Inc. | www.weatherizationplus.org
Are Weatherization Layoffs Fueling the Bleak Jobs Picture?
It is well known that the residential construction industry has been hard hit by the housing slump; fewer than 600,000 jobs have been filled in any month in recent years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 3,400 fewer workers in those jobs in March than there were in December 2011. During the same period, Weatherization agencies reported dropping 2,637 “FTE” jobs as compared to the previous quarter. Not all were construction positions like installers, HVAC and inspectors, but by March 31st, the Weatherization workforce had been noticeably diminished.
Over April and May, US residential construction jobs continued to fall by another 2,700. Thirteen states are closing out their ARRA-funded Weatherization by June 30; only some workers have transferred to work on projects funded by regular or leveraged resources.
These grim statistics measure different intervals of time and have different definitions of a job, but clearly they are related. Much more news to come: all but three states will have spent all WAP funds, ARRA and regular appropriations, by the end of their 2012 Program Year. Twenty-seven states have spent all but 2% of their ARRA funds!
Tell us your local story of Weatherization talent either standing idle now or facing joblessness soon; we’ll collect the examples for the public to see the range of impacts.
Will Utility Loans to the Poor Leverage More Weatherization Funding?
Energy Secretary Chu has pointed to unsecured loans to homeowners paid back on monthly utility bills as a source of funds that can cushion the deep cuts forecast for DOE Weatherization. The idea is that small unsecured loans with repayments equal to no more than bill savings the reduction resulting from the retrofit would afford easy access to credit while creating no increase in monthly expenses followed by lower bills would drop when the loan is paid up. That promise, called “bill neutrality” is a key to attracting participants.
New sources of capital are very interested in attracting all residential borrowers and using the utilities as the collection agents. In fact, twenty states’ utilities already have on-bill financing options. Few carry the protections that come with a bank loan, such as transparency, privacy, dispute settlement and collections practices. Most allow disconnection of utilities if the entire bill, including the loan repayment, is not paid in full.
Low-income advocates who favor expanding Weatherization funding sources are split: some feel it is a great advantage to the un-banked or those without credit. Others are very concerned about four issues beyond the consumer protection issues noted above:
Economic Opportunity Studies will soon release a more detailed issues paper as a tool for Weatherization advocates as they respond to potential leveraging scenario.
ASHRAE or MY WAY?
No technical issue is more controversial among WAP practitioners at the moment than integrating the provisions of ASHRAE 62.2 into the program. A lively online debate is heating up within the WAP Trainer’s Consortium of experts. It seems that the training session presented during the NWTC conference last year has only heightened the debate. The fundamental question: is there a satisfactory trade-off between health and safety gains and energy losses that justifies adding mechanical ventilation to homes tightened-up to the max? And is the cost-effectiveness hit worth it?
Interested in following the technical discussion through Trainer’s Consortium calls and emails? You are invited to contact Kelly Cutchin: firstname.lastname@example.org. EOS is also interested in your experience/opinions/comments on this subject, and we will post a more detailed review of the debate and feedback; please email us your views.
The Newsletter of Economic Opportunity Studies' Weatherization PLUS Leveraging Partnership Project brings timely information about developments that expand the Weatherization Assistance Program to help your organization take advantage of emerging opportunities. Visit the Weatherization PLUS portal for more information.
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