Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a final rule to expand the definition of “States” under the Weatherization Assistance Program for Low-Income Persons (WAP) and to amend the financial assistance allocation procedure to reflect the expanded definition. The new rule in effect means American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, are eligible for funding under WAP.
WAP was first created by Congress in 1976 (P.L. 95-619) to assist low-income families who lacked resources to invest in energy efficiencies. The program was only available to the 50 States until Congress in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Energy Act of 2007 – P.L. 110-140) directed DOE to amend its regulatory definition of “States” under WAP to include Puerto Rico and all US territories and possessions. In addition, the statutory amendment also directed DOE to amend the allocation procedure for calculating the amount of financial assistance accordingly.
Each year, Congress appropriates funding for WAP. From this appropriation, each state is allocated a certain amount based on a two-part allocation comprised of a base allocation and a formula allocation. The formula allocation is based on three factors for each state—low-income population, climatic conditions and residential energy expenditures. Because there is a lack of specific-data for assessing shares for the territories, DOE relied on Hawaii’s base allocation.
According to DOE, American Samoa is appropriated $196,784 under WAP in 2009. In addition, American Samoa is slated to receive $719,511 of WAP funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. These amounts include portions for Program Operations and Training and Technical Assistance.
“I want to thank Secretary Steven Chu and the Department of Energy for issuing this rule consistent with the statutory amendment in the Energy Act of 2007. American Samoa could benefit tremendously from this program. Especially in these rough economic times and high costs of energy and utility, it could help reduce energy costs for participants, including the elderly, people with disabilities, and children, by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes while promoting their health and safety,” Faleomavaega added.
“This is a new program for American Samoa and much still needs to be worked out between our local government and the office of DOE before it is fully implemented and service is delivered to our people. I am happy nevertheless that Congress was able to understand the needs of American Samoa and the other US Territories and made the necessary changes to the law, thus allowing American Samoa to receive funding under this important federal program,” Faleomavaega concluded.