Gov. Inslee proclaims Oct. 30 Weatherization Day in Washington

Low-income households benefit from new innovations to maintain healthy, energy efficient, affordable homes

OLYMPIA, WA – Gov. Jay Inslee joins community action agencies, housing authorities and local governments across the state and nation in recognizing Oct. 30, 2018 as Weatherization Day. The annual proclamation kicks off a month-long effort to raise awareness of programs and services that help low-income households save money on heating bills through energy efficiency and other home improvements.

Each year Washington’s Weatherization Assistance Program helps many households make it through the cold weather season – and the years ahead – by adding insulation, sealing cracks and making other improvements that reduce heat loss and save money on energy bills. In 2017-2018, the program weatherized 2,540 low-income homes all across the state.

“We continue to look for better ways to assist Washingtonians who struggle with high heating bills and unhealthy homes,” said Gov. Inslee. “New investments in innovative programs, such as Weatherization Plus Health and Rural Rehabilitation loans, help more people save money on heating bills, improve indoor air quality and stay in their homes.”

This year, the state is expanding on weatherization programs with two important new services. One will help create healthier homes for young children and people living with asthma and other chronic respiratory conditions. The other will help rural homeowners needing to make basic repairs before they can be served by weatherization assistance programs.

A $5 million capital allocation for rural rehabilitation will provide low-interest home repair loans of up to $40,000 to approximately 100 households in designated rural areas. This program will enable vital repairs to prepare homes for weatherization work that can then improve energy efficiency and reduce heating costs. Prior to this program, many rural homeowners did not have resources to make repairs necessary to be served by the Weatherization Assistance Program. For example, a leaking roof must be repaired first for insulation or other energy efficiency measures to be effective.

Another new investment of $1 million will help alleviate lead-based paint risks found in homes with children 5 years of age or younger who are known by the Department of Health (DOH) to have elevated levels of lead in their blood. Commerce’s Weatherization Assistance Program has worked closely with DOH to launch the program in seven locations.

“We’ve used a great opportunity to collaborate and launch a new service combining the Department of Health expertise in lead testing of children with the experience of Commerce’s Low-Income Weatherization Assistance Program in managing the lead remediation work,” said Rad Cunningham, chief epidemiologist for the Washington State Department of Health.

Discovering that asthma and respiratory diseases were a chronic problem for many families in the homes it weatherized, Commerce worked with DOH on a successful pilot of the Weatherization Plus Health concept from 2016 – 2017. This year the program advances closer to becoming a permanent service available to low-income households with asthma or chronic respiratory conditions. Fifteen local agencies throughout the state will assist over 220 households by combining weatherization and home health assessments and improvements that reduce indoor asthma triggers like carpets, cockroaches, water damage and mold.

“Investing in innovative approaches to creating more quality affordable housing strengthens communities by helping residents at risk stay in their homes,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “Focusing on households most likely to have asthma, and children with asthma, can reduce rates of hospitalizations, saving taxpayer money and helping vulnerable families be more resilient. “

In 2010, people with asthma in Washington made 164,000 visits to hospital emergency rooms, and paid $73 million for asthma-related hospitalizations.  Public funds paid for about 60 percent of these costs. When weatherization is combined with homeowner education, Medicaid costs for asthma treatment can be reduced by over $400/year per household, according to recent case studies in Washington.

Learn more about Weatherization Plus Health.

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