Politics & Government

Plan would weatherize more walls

The state Department of Commerce is seeking approval from the federal government to spend more of the federal funds it will receive in October to weatherize low-income family homes – and spend slightly less on paying their energy bills.

Without the requested federal waiver, the state would spend 85 percent of the $75.1 million it expects to receive in the next federal budget on paying energy bills for thousands of low-income families and 15 percent on making low-income homes more energy-efficient.

The request would allow 25 percent of the funds to be spent on home-weatherization projects, reaching an extra 1,100 households.

“The goal of the state’s request is to reduce the energy and heating bills of as many low-income families as possible – and not for one season, but for the long term,” said Julie Palakovich, Commerce’s weatherization program manager.

Commerce expects to submit the request to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Aug. 1 for the federal budget year that begins Oct. 1.

The request comes on the heels of a home-weatherization program that ramped up with federal economic-recovery funds in 2009, making more than 10,200 homes more energy-efficient in the past two years and saving some $600 a year per household, according to state estimates.

Studies suggest affordable energy should account for no more than 6 percent of a household’s income. But about 46 percent of the state’s more than 251,000 low-income households spend 10 percent or more of their income on energy costs, according to the state’s waiver request.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444 jdodge@theolympian.com

Public hearing

The state Department of Commerce will conduct a public hearing beginning at 11 a.m. July 14 about its federal waiver request to spend more money on low-income home-weatherization projects that otherwise would be used to pay energy bills.

The hearing will be in Room 207, Building 5 of the Town Square Complex, 1011 Plum St. S.E., Olympia.

Comments on the proposal can be emailed no latter than July 14 to brigid.flynn@commerce.wa.gov.