House Commerce Committee Examines Cutler’s Weatherization Assistance Reform Legislation

The House Commerce Committee heard testimony today about legislation authored by Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Peach Bottom) that would improve accountability and oversight in the Weatherization Assistance Program administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). 

“The goal of House Bill 1637 is to ensure that we are using Pennsylvania’s limited resources as wisely as possible and serving Pennsylvania’s neediest citizens – for whom this assistance program is intended,” said Cutler.  “Just as a home that is not weatherized allows energy to seep out and be wasted, an assistance program without the proper oversight allows taxpayer dollars to be used inefficiently.  We must work to eliminate all kinds of waste – energy and public funds.” 

House Bill 1637 would require DCED to issue photo identification cards to individuals who receive weatherization assistance, to collect and maintain the Social Security numbers of applicants and members of that individual’s household, and to establish a computerized income eligibility verification system. 

The income eligibility verification system would comprehensively cross-check income information with other agencies and departments at both the state and federal level, such as the:  

  • Internal Revenue Service.
  • Social Security Administration.
  • Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  • State new hire database maintained by the Commonwealth.
  • National new hire database maintained by the federal government.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Database of Commonwealth day care subsidy payments.  

The legislation would also require the department to establish the Office of Program Compliance for Weatherization to monitor the administration of the program and performance of local agencies. 

The committee heard testimony about House Bill 1637 from Auditor General Jack Wagner; E. Craig Heim, executive director of the Office of Energy Conservation and Weatherization within DCED; Liz Robinson of the Energy Coordinating Agency; Larry Swanson of Action Housing, Incorporated; and Kevin Mitcheltree of Step, Incorporated. 

Wagner, who as auditor general would be required by the legislation to conduct a performance audit of the program and the newly created Office of Program Compliance for Weatherization, praised the legislation and considered it necessary in light of the three-fold increase in weatherization funds resulting from the influx of federal stimulus money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  He also noted that the addition of federal funds provides an opportunity for greater oversight of the program. 

“House Bill 1637 enacts necessary provisions to improve how applicants are prioritized to ensure that those most in need of weatherization assistance can receive the help they need in a timely manner,” said Wagner.  “It also provides measures that will assist in eliminating the backlog of applicants, making sure that promised energy savings are monitored and reducing waste and potential fraud.  We believe these factors are critical to the success of the program and will help in meeting federal funding guidelines.” 

Wagner made suggestions to strengthen the legislation and also recommended more oversight into the state’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).  Cutler’s House Bill 1638 would address fraud in the LIHEAP program and provide oversight similar to that of House Bill 1637. 

“I fully agree with Auditor General Wagner that the weatherization and LIHEAP programs are intertwined and that we must increase oversight into both,” said Cutler.  “I am hopeful that the Commerce Committee and the House Health and Human Services Committee will move to consider House bills 1637 and 1638, respectively, and that both will become law before the end of this session.” 

Rep. Bryan Cutler
100th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

(717) 786-4551
(717) 783-6424
Contact:  Nicole Wamsley or (717) 783-8063
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