November 6, 2015—Maine was granted permission from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to raise the amount of LIHEAP funding that goes toward their weatherization program from 15 percent to 25 percent this week. According to LIHEAP regulations, LIHEAP grantees can allocate up to 15 percent of their funds toward weatherization. However, grantees can submit a waiver request to HHS, and, if approved, can increase that amount to 25 percent. The conditions for the waiver can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations.
The Maine funds will be transferred into the weatherization program from Maine's fuel purchase fund. The price of heating fuel fell last year in Maine and, as a result, the state's LIHEAP saw a drop in heating fuel assistance applications. After the heating season had ended, a surplus of funds remained that the state carried over for use in Federal Fiscal Year 2016. In order to receive an increase in funding for weatherization, the state's LIHEAP grantee, the Maine Housing Authority, had to submit a waiver request to HHS. MaineHousing cites its strong support of low-cost residential weatherization as a way to help low-income Maine residents reduce their energy costs as a reason for its request. On average, it reports weatherization measures help residential recipients reduce home heating costs by 25 to 30 percent. Maine's energy director, Patrick Woodcock, also stated that the governor wished to invest more on long-term solutions in order to lower costs for future winters. With this increase in funding, Maine expects to be able to help a total of 2,225 households with insulation, air-sealing, and heating system improvements.
In addition to increasing weatherization funding, HHS has approved an extension to the Weatherization season from September 30, 2016, as per Maine's original state plan, to March 31, 2017. This will hopefully help the 10 community action agencies that administer the LIHEAP programs to get to all of the houses on their weatherization waiting lists. Weatherization applications are selected from the waiting list based on the age of household members (over 60 years or under 24 months old), medical necessity, home energy burden, households where there are opportunities to leverage funds for providing weatherization, and so on.
Sources: LIHEAP Clearinghouse, MaineHousing, Media Sources