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Vermont Weatherization Legislation

VERMONT STATUTES

Title 33. Welfare

Chapter 25. Home Weatherization Assistance Program 

2501. HOME WEATHERIZATION ASSISTANCE TRUST FUND

(a) There is created in the state treasury a fund to be known as the home weatherization assistance trust fund to be expended by the director of the state office of economic opportunity in accordance with federal law and this chapter.

(b) The fund shall be composed of the receipts from the gross receipts tax on retail sales of fuel imposed by section 2503 of this title, such funds as may be allocated from the oil overcharge fund, such funds as may be allocated from the federal low income energy assistance program, and such other funds as may be appropriated by the general assembly.

(c) All balances in the fund at the end of any fiscal year shall be carried forward and remain part of the fund. Interest earned by the fund shall be deposited into the fund. Disbursements from the fund shall be made by the state treasurer on warrants drawn by the commissioner of finance and management.

2501a. OFFICE OF HOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE

(a) There is created an office of home energy assistance to be assigned to a department within the agency of human services as designated by the secretary, and to be headed by a director appointed by the secretary.

(b) The responsibilities of the office of home energy assistance shall include:

(1) Administering the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), 42 U.S.C. 8621 et seq., and coordinating it with other related heating and weatherization programs.

(2) Developing and recommending policy changes for the secretary.

(3) Coordinating home energy advocacy training and statewide outreach.

(4) Monitoring related federal developments and projects in other states.

(5) Exploring alternative and additional funding possibilities to LIHEAP, both private and public.

(6) Preparing a written annual report addressing the above functions as well as energy needs, caseload and funding projections, recommendations, if any, for appropriate pilot projects, and, in coordination with the home energy assistance task force, recommendations to the general assembly.

(c) A home energy assistance task force shall advise the office of home energy assistance. The task force shall be composed of the commissioner of the designated department or the commissioner's designee, one member of the low income community selected by the low income advocacy council, one representative of the elderly selected by the coalition of Vermont elders, one representative of people with disabilities selected by the Vermont coalition for disability rights, one representative of unregulated fuel providers selected by unregulated fuel providers, one representative of electric utilities selected by the electric utilities, one representative of gas utilities selected by the gas utilities, one representative of the state economic opportunity office, and one representative of the public service department. If any constituency group cannot agree on its representative, the secretary shall make those selections. Members of the task force shall be entitled to reimbursement for reasonable travel and meal expenses. The task force shall report regularly to the director, and on request to the general assembly, for the purpose of making recommendations for improving Vermont's home energy assistance

2502. HOME WEATHERIZATION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

(a) The director of the state office of economic opportunity shall administer a home weatherization assistance program under such rules, regulations, funding and funding requirements as may be imposed by federal law.

(b) In addition, the director shall supplement, or supplant, any federal program with a state home weatherization assistance program providing:

(1) an enhanced weatherization assistance amount exceeding the federal per unit limit allowing amounts up to an average of $3,000.00 per unit pursuant to rules adopted by the director allocating additional per unit amounts on a cost-effective basis. In units where costs exceed the allowable average by more than 25 percent, prior approval of the director of the state economic opportunity office shall be required before work commences. This amount shall be adjusted annually by increasing the last year's amount by the lesser of:

(A) the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for the previous year; or

(B) three percent;

(2) amounts for low income customers utilizing any high operating cost fuel, to convert to another fuel source under rules adopted by the director based on the cost effectiveness of the converted facility over the life cycle of the equipment.

(c) The secretary of the agency of human services shall by rule establish rent stabilization agreements and provisions to recapture amounts expended for weatherization of a rental unit which exceed the amount of energy cost reductions projected to be obtained by eligible tenants of the unit. The time periods established for rent stabilization and recapture shall be set taking into account the size of benefits received by tenants and landlords as well as the effect on program participation. Funds recaptured under this section shall be deposited into the weatherization assistance trust fund established under section 2501 of this title.

(d) Amounts raised by the gross receipts tax on retail sales of fuel imposed by section 2503 of this title may be used for energy assistance to low income persons, provided that such transfer does not reduce the fiscal capacity of the state office of economic opportunity to meet the obligations of the weatherization program as set forth in this chapter.

2503. FUEL GROSS RECEIPTS TAX

(a) There is imposed a gross receipts tax of 0.5 percent on the retail sale of the following types of fuel by sellers receiving more than $10,000.00 annually for the sale of such fuels:

(1) heating oil and kerosene not used to propel a motor vehicle;

(2) propane;

(3) natural gas;

(4) electricity;

(5) coal.

(b) The tax shall be levied upon and collected quarterly from the seller. Fuel sellers may include the following message on their bills to customers:

"The amount of this bill includes a 0.5% gross receipts tax, enacted in 1990, for support of Vermont's low income home weatherization program."

(c) The tax shall be administered by the commissioner of taxes, and all receipts shall be deposited by the commissioner in the home weatherization assistance trust fund. All provisions of law relating to the collection, administration and enforcement of the sales and use tax imposed by chapter 233 of Title 32 shall apply to the tax imposed by this chapter.

(d) [Repealed.]

(e) Fuel sellers, which are regulated "companies" as defined in 30 V.S.A. 201(a), which provide conservation programs that meet the goals of the weatherization program in a manner approved by the public service board, and which enhance the weatherization program's capacity to serve low income households may be eligible for rebates from the fuel gross receipts tax imposed under this section. To establish rebate eligibility, such a company shall file with the public service board, on or before August 15 of each year, a request for approval of rebates based on the company's activities during the prior fiscal year. The public service board shall make a determination of the amount of rebate for each applicant on or before January 15 of each year, and such amount shall be rebated by the state economic opportunity office under the provisions of subsection (g) of this section. The public service board shall authorize rebates equal to the expenditures undertaken by the regulated utilities provided that such expenditures were prudently incurred and cost-effective, that they provided weatherization services following a comprehensive energy audit and work plan, except in cases where the fuel seller and weatherization staff jointly conclude that the need for weatherization services can be determined without a comprehensive energy audit, and that they were targeted to households at or below 150 percent of the federally-established poverty guidelines.

(f) Unregulated fuel sellers that provide conservation programs that meet the goals of the weatherization program in a manner approved by the state economic opportunity office and which enhance the weatherization program's capacity to serve low income households may be eligible for rebates from the fuel gross receipts tax imposed under this section. To establish rebate eligibility, such a company shall file with the state economic opportunity office, on or before August 15 of each year, a request for approval of rebates based on the company's activities during the prior fiscal year. The state economic opportunity office shall make a determination of the amount of rebate for each applicant on or before January 15 of each year, and such amount shall be rebated by the state economic opportunity office under the provisions of this subsection. The state economic opportunity office shall authorize rebates equal to the expenditures undertaken by the unregulated fuel sellers provided that such expenditures were prudently incurred and cost-effective, that they provided weatherization services following a comprehensive energy audit and work plan, except in cases where the fuel seller and weatherization staff jointly conclude thatthe need for weatherization services can be determined without a comprehensive energy audit, and that they were targeted to households at or below 150 percent of the federally-established poverty guidelines.

(g) On or before August 7 of each year, the director of the state economic opportunity office shall set aside a sum of money equaling 12 and one-half percent of the tax receipts of the fuel gross receipts tax for the preceding fiscal year in an escrow account. The monies in the escrow account are to be used for rebate, as approved under subsections (e) and (f) of this section, of the gross receipts tax established in subsection (a) of this section. Upon approval of rebates, the director shall pay the approved rebates out of the escrow account. In the event that the approved rebates exceed the amount of money set aside in the escrow account, the director shall prorate each rebate. Any balance of rebate awards remaining unpaid as a result of proration may be carried forward for payment in a succeeding year. If monies set aside exceed approved rebates, then the balance shall be returned to the trust fund. The director of the state economic opportunity office shall use the remainder of the tax receipts of the fuel gross receipts tax for the preceding fiscal year to assure the provision of weatherization services as described in subsections (a), (b) and (c) of section 2502 of this title.