HOPE for HOMES Act offers grants for training and rebates for energy efficiency

On July 1, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the INVEST in America Act with bipartisan support. The wide-ranging bill addressed urgent infrastructure needs, including USGBC priorities like $100 billion for school building repairs, ambitious federal energy and water efficiency goals, and a low-income housing tax credit expansion. In addition, another key provision was added as an amendment: the HOPE for HOMES Act.

HOPE for HOMES has also been introduced as a stand-alone bill in each chamber—H.R. 7325 by Reps. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and David McKinley, R-W.Va., and S. 4052 by Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Mass., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Chris Coons, D-Del. The bill consists of two main provisions: training grants for energy efficiency contractors and new incentives for homeowners to invest in energy efficiency improvements.

According to E2 and E4 for the Future, an estimated 360,000 workers in the energy efficiency sector have lost their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic. The HOPE for HOMES Act, if enacted, would go a long way toward creating new jobs and supporting job training in the green economy.

HOPE training credits

HOPE for HOMES gives companies the opportunity to invest in a green workforce. The bill authorizes $500 million to support training credits issued by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) over the next five years. Licensed residential insulation contracting companies would receive grants of up to $10,000 (up to $1,000 per employee) to support retrofit training courses for their employees. Trainees would also be rewarded under the bill, receiving a $1,000 stipend upon the successful completion of three course credits, as laid out by DOE. Because training is offered virtually, contractors across the country would be able to improve their credentials online while their on-site work is on pause.

The bill also supports nonprofit and educational organizations that offer virtual training. Under HOPE for HOMES, organizations are eligible for grants of up to $20,000 to provide approved online courses on home energy and HVAC systems, energy auditing, installation and air leakage control, and indoor air quality improvements, as well as supporting key credentials. USGBC’s Education @USGBC is ideally situated to help our education partners deliver online courses under this program, and to provide online training to residential contractors and their employees.

Home Energy Savings Retrofit Rebate Program

HOPE for HOMES would authorize $6 billion over the next six years to create a Home Energy Savings Retrofit Rebate Program. Under the program, homeowners would receive rebates for a host of home improvements, including $800 for home insulation upgrades and $1,500 for improved insulation paired with HVAC system replacements. The bill also offers $2,000 for retrofits that save 20–40% of whole-house energy use, or $4,000 for retrofits that save at least 40% of whole-house energy use. Larger rebates would be available for lower-income program participants. In addition, contractors would be eligible for a $250 incentive for each home installation where the contractor provides information to the DOE Building Performance Database.

Investments in HVAC are particularly critical given recent research showing that improved indoor airflow, air filtration and HVAC fan control can limit the spread of COVID-19. These rebates would also give the economy a boost, encouraging homeowners to make upfront investments to achieve long-term energy savings.

USGBC will continue to join partners and allies in advocating for movement on HOPE for HOMES.

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