Monday, January 24, 2011

N.Y. GOP to cut New York States Weatherization Grants

WASHINGTON — Monday may dawn with temperatures in the minus teens across most of upstate New York, but the region's newly elected members of Congress are mum so far about a proposal to end a federal program to protect homes against harsh winter weather.

All four lawmakers — Ms. Buerkle, Chris Gibson of Kinderhook, Tom Reed of Corning and Richard Hanna of Barneveld — joined the conservative Republican Study Committee after taking office this month. The RSC included the elimination of the weatherization program in a broad proposal to cut dozens of programs and slash $2.5 trillion in federal spending over 10 years.

Cutting weatherization grants would save $530 million a year, lawmakers said, based on typical funding amounts separate from the temporary increase the program received through the Obama administration's economic stimulus.

Word of the proposal has not reached all of the agencies around the country that administer the program, but advocates contacted by the Times said it would cripple their efforts, especially because states such as New York are in no financial condition to make up the losses.

"It's only one of the most cost-effective programs the government runs," said Charles A. Acquard, executive director of the National Association of State Utility Customer Advocates, in Silver Spring, Md.

Winterizing homes is not terribly expensive, he said, but saves low-income residents enough money through lower heating bills that they can, in extreme cases, keep paying their mortgage or avoid homelessness. Many low-income households in the north country also qualify for federal low income home energy assistance, a program that would face reductions, too, as the proposal takes a broad cut at non-defense discretionary programs.

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