The COVID Pandemic and HOPE 4HOMES
Before the World Fell Apart
The Building Performance Association (BPA) began 2020 with a robust strategy to advance the industry and drive more energy efficiency work across our country. With a workforce of over 2.3 million, our industry was hard at work improving homes and buildings, saving energy, and advancing resilience and economic opportunity for Americans; and the Building Performance Association was leading a wide-reaching federal legislative strategy to build on that strength and move our industry even farther forward.
We started the year focused on legislation to advance workforce development for an industry brimming with unfilled job openings, support better and more granular access to utility data, ensure energy efficiency is valued in real estate transactions, update efficiency rebate and tax policy to support energy independence and carbon reductions, and spearheading targeted funding support for programs at DOE and EPA. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and our strategy evolved first to support the survival of the industry and then to a broader recovery plan to reemerge and thrive.
Immediate Need: Small Business Loans, Unemployment, and Other Federal Relief
As the country shut down and retrofit programs were halted, BPA immediately shifted its lobbying effort to support contractors, many of whom have been forced to lay off employees and are struggling to stay open during the lockdown. We sought to support funding and relief for small businesses in the federal legislative response, and we called on federal and state governments to consider HVAC workers essential.
At the time of this writing, Congress has passed four COVID relief packages, and BPA has worked on a continuous basis to keep our members updated about measures impacting small businesses and available relief. We have closely monitored the new Paycheck Protection Program and the expanded U.S. Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and shared information and resources on how to apply. Detailed summaries of these new small business relief programs and other relevant provisions, including new tax credits for retaining employees, deferral of certain tax payments, and increased unemployment funding, are on our website. Additionally, BPA co-sponsored a webinar with Pearl Certification on federal COVID stimulus on April 8, and we opened the 2020 virtual National Home Performance Conference with a live session on federal policy and stimulus. You can find a full list of resources here.
The steps Congress has taken so far are important, but they are not enough. The building performance industry needs a targeted and long-term strategy to keep workers employed and ensure that this crisis does not break us.
Moving Forward: HOPE4HOMES
By the week of March 16, we were hearing dire updates from contractors across the country impacted by the lockdown. An image of possible industry collapse was coming into sharper view and it became clear that a plan was needed to support contractors during the shutdown while also preparing them for a strong recovery.
BPA’s federal policy team developed a new $500 million proposal for Contractor “Home On-line Performance-based Energy-efficiency” (HOPE) Training to provide immediate support to contractor businesses by paying their contractors to take online training. HOPE provides a stipend for contractors who complete the HOPE Training and are prepared to advance their careers and help homeowners save energy and money through home retrofits.
HOPE would be paired with an updated $6 billion “Home Owner Managing Savings” (HOMES) Act, to be authorized through 2025 or until expended, that would provide rebates to homeowners who invest in energy efficiency home retrofits. The HOMES rebates would provide vital stimulus to the industry, supporting contractor businesses, energy efficiency product manufacturers, and others along the supply chain, while also helping average homeowners as we get through this trying time and begin to rebuild.
The HOMES Act was originally introduced in 2012 with a sole focus on performance-based rebates. It was reintroduced in the Spring of 2019 as H.R. 2043 as well as in the majority’s infrastructure bill. It was then further revised to add both prescriptive/partial-performance rebates (focused on building envelope/HVAC system upgrades) as well as performance-based rebates for deeper retrofits with the flexibility to use measured (via the meter) or modeled (via approved software) energy savings approaches. The current version was introduced as part of the CLEAN Future Act Draft.
Together, HOPE4HOMES will help contractors rehire and invest in their workers, keeping the workforce productive at home and preparing them for a new stage of significant advancement of America’s existing home infrastructure after the COVID-19 crisis subsides. The HOMES rebates include requirements to ensure quality products and installations for American homeowners; this level of quality is fulfilled through contractor training and education—which HOPE training would provide in advance. And contractor companies will have the confidence to retain or rehire employees during the pandemic because the HOMES rebate program would be available once social distancing requirements have loosened. HOPE4HOMES is a stimulus proposal to protect and create jobs, help American homeowners through the looming recession, and provide for a sustainable energy future.
We Succeed Together
We can’t go it alone. Together, we can build a strong recovery for our industry and for this country with HOPE4HOMES. But we can only succeed if we unite behind our shared goals to make this proposal a reality—using our full strength in numbers and making all of our voices heard. We need all contractors, manufacturers, program implementors, and everyone with a stake in our industry to make it clear to Congress how important HOPE4HOMES is. Already, we have a strong group of support from allies including the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), National Association of State Energy Official, American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy, U.S. Green Building Council, and many others. And over 925 individuals have signed on to our grassroots support letter. Will you join us?
Together we can overcome this crisis, and usher in a new, brighter era of home performance. Our industry will get back to work. And we will continue advocating for all of the important federal legislation we were working on before the world fell apart. We might bend but if we stand together, we can weather this crisis and we will never break. We can emerge as a stronger industry, poised to upgrade homes across America to be healthier, more affordable, resilient, and efficient than ever before.