Sixteen Alaskan communities to lose RurAL CAP weatherization services

RurAL CAP Weatherization services improved the energy efficiency, health and safety of a home in Nome.

As a result of the 2020 State Capital Budget cuts to weatherization, 16 communities served by Rural Alaska Community Action Program, Inc. (RurAL CAP) will lose these energy-saving services.

RurAL CAP’s weatherization program, one aspect of the safe housing spectrum, improves the energy efficiency of low-income households while increasing their health and safety and reducing utility costs.

“For more than 35 years, RurAL CAP has provided weatherization services to generations of Alaskans,” said Patrick M. Anderson, RurAL CAP Chief Executive Officer. “As a result of the elimination of state funding for weatherization, RurAL CAP will be forced to reduce services by 75% across the state, especially in the remote communities who need it most.”

Impacts from the funding cuts will begin in November across the communities of Bethel, Brevig Mission, Chefornak, Gambell, Kongiganak, Kotzebue, Mekoryuk, Mountain Village, Nome, Nunapitchuk, Quinhagak, Savoonga, Teller, White Mountain, Anchorage and Juneau.

The weatherization program was vetoed as a separate budget bill from the Operating Budget that impacted early education and homeless services administered by RurAL CAP. The decision to defund these critical community services will undercut the statewide community’s efforts to protect vulnerable populations, compromising the health and safety of both urban and rural Alaskans, according to Anderson.

Approximately 120 low-income, vulnerable families will not receive services next year as a result of this funding veto. Initial estimates indicate that more than 600 individuals will lose vital weatherization services including an estimated 366 children, 72 seniors and 30 disabled Alaskans.

The safe housing spectrum includes supportive housing for individuals and families who benefit from on-site services that prevent the return to homelessness, to emergency shelters that keep vulnerable individuals off the streets at night. Within this spectrum, weatherization supports housing preservation to maintain affordable housing for low-income individuals.

Significant impacts of weatherization programming extend beyond utility savings and into individuals’ health and safety, rural employment and homelessness prevention. Weatherization helps prevent fires, mitigate mold and moisture that causes health issues, ensure adequate indoor air quality and educate Alaskans on potential household hazards, new equipment functions and the benefits of energy-efficient products.

Weatherization also creates seasonal jobs for rural and urban Alaskans alike. According to Anderson, the cuts will impact at least 15 staff positions including community residents in Kotzebue, Mountain Village, Quinhagak, future hires in Nome, and six Anchorage staff positions.

“When a family spends the majority of their income on energy bills,” Carla Burkhead, RurAL CAP Home Improvement Planning Manager, said, “they can’t spend their income on basic needs like groceries, medicine and childcare. They also can’t spend their money on the home improvements that would lower their energy bills, so people get trapped in a cycle of unmet housing needs that feeds itself by creating one problem after another, resulting in a myriad of costs on society, including homelessness.”

Weatherization, according to Burkhead, helps end the cycle of unmet housing needs which improves the quality of life for low-income Alaskans.

Governed by a 24-member Board of Directors representing the public sector, the private sector, and the different regions of rural Alaska, RurAL CAP is a private, statewide, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. With a mission to empower low-income Alaskans through advocacy, education, affordable housing and direct services that respect Alaskan’s unique values and cultures, RurAL CAP collaborates with community partners to ensure that all Alaskans have access to the vital services needed to promote the vision of Healthy People, Sustainable Communities, Vibrant Cultures.