Just as temperatures where dropping and some residents in low income communities were thinking about how they’d pay their astronomical electric bills this winter, a group of community leaders traveled to Washington, DC. These leaders went to meet with their congressional offices to discuss how good energy policies can lead to savings in the home, new jobs, and economic development opportunities to lower income and communities of color.
Among the attendees were Reverend Gerald Durley, a long time Civil Rights Activist and Pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA; Garry Harris, Executive Director for Sustainable Communities at the Atlanta Urban League; and Leon Jacobs, former member of the Florida Public Service Commission and current SACE board member.
These community leaders spoke from their hearts and shared real life stories about family members, friends and people in their communities who are struggling with high gas and electricity bills. Their stories helped to paint a clear picture of how energy policies can either positively or negatively impact those on a limited or fixed income.
One of the most shocking stories was of a 79 year old retired woman who was living in a home with lead paint on the walls, doors that didn’t fit and old, inefficient appliances. Moreover, she was paying nearly $1200 a month on her power bills during the winter months. Unfortunately, her story isn’t isolated, for the typical low-income household faces energy costs of up to 25% of its total income.
One solution to this inequity is to continue supporting residential energy efficiency programs to help homeowners and renters reduce their consumption in the first place. In 2009, President Obama increased federal funding for at least two years for the Weatherization Assistance Program through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). These funds have weatherized and retrofitted thousands of homes across the country while putting more people back to work.
Imagine if more residents in low income communities had the opportunity to weatherize and retrofit their homes. Not only would there be a decline in our reliance on fossil fuels, but jobs would be created and air quality, especially in our urban areas, would be improved.
SACE was proud to work with these community leaders to show elected leaders how investments in energy efficiency programs are saving residents money on their energy bills and spurring economic development in our communities. We look forward to doing more of this work as we move into the new year.