Elissa Slotkin introduces bill to help Michiganders fix up homes and lower energy costs

Elissa Slotkin introduces bill to help Michiganders fix up homes and lower energy costs

Photo Illustration/Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

By Kyle Kaminski

July 2, 2024

Legislation introduced by US Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Michigan) aims to expand a federal program to help fund home improvements for low-income residents—and save them hundreds of dollars on their monthly energy bills. 

MICHIGAN—Legislation co-sponsored by US Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Michigan) would allow low-income Michiganders to tap into millions of dollars in federal funding to address a range of home repairs, as well as invest in energy efficiency upgrades to help lower their utility bills.

It’s called the Weatherization Enhancement and Readiness Act, and Slotkin, who is also running for a seat representing Michigan in the US Senate this year, introduced the bill last month alongside US Reps. Paul Tonko (D-New York) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio).

The goal: Help lower costs for Michigan families by expanding the Department of Energy’s low-income Weatherization Assistance Program—which reduces costs for low-income households by covering various home energy efficiency upgrades at no cost to homeowners.

“Many residents aren’t eligible for federal assistance that would help them save on energy bills because of other problems like mold or leaky roofs,” Slotkin said in a statement announcing the legislation. “This expansion in eligibility will then help families make additional upgrades that will lead to safer homes, lower energy bills, and ultimately put money back in people’s pockets.”

What is the Weatherization Assistance Program?

The federal Weatherization Assistance Program has provided funding to more than 7 million households since it launched in 1976, and it covers various energy efficiency improvements for about 35,000 homes across the US every year—supporting about 8,500 jobs in the process.

Eligible services include home energy audits, weather-stripping, caulking, insulation, thermostat installation, furnace and water heater repairs, refrigerator and lightbulb replacement, and more.

State data shows that households have been able to curb their energy consumption by up to 40% after receiving weatherization upgrades—saving about $372 a year on their utility bills. 

What’s Slotkin’s plan?

In recent years, the federal program has been forced to do more with less—namely because the amount of funding available to homeowners hasn’t kept pace with the rising cost of building materials, which has limited services that households have been able to receive, Slotkin said.

Slotkin’s legislation would authorize $50 million annually for the program through 2029, essentially doubling the amount of federal cash that’s available to eligible low-income households from $6,000 to $12,000, as well as allowing more households to receive help.

Additionally, many low-income families that could benefit from the program have been unable to access funding because their homes are in such shoddy condition that they’ve been rendered ineligible for upgrades, Slotkin said. The legislation introduced last month would expand the program to cover larger, structural repairs, as well as plumbing, roofing, and electrical issues.

The bill also includes measures designed to ensure that contractors are paying competitive wages and makes “other minor and clarifying changes” to the program, according to a release.

“The Weatherization Assistance Program has served as a pillar for millions of American families, lowering energy costs and making their homes healthier and safer, which is why I’ve pushed hard in Congress to bolster this vital program,” Tonko said in a statement announcing the bill.

Kaptur added: “Our goal is to improve the efficacy and efficiency of the Weatherization Assistance Program and to help homeowners save hundreds of dollars each year on their energy bills. … Together, we recommit to ensuring that homeowners, no matter their income level, have access to this important program to help ease the burden of high energy costs.”

READ MORE: Elissa Slotkin promises to defend ACA, Social Security, and Medicare

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  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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