Baltimore homeowner Diane Adams talks about how home weatherization improvements have benefited her. Screenshot from livestream via Charm TV Baltimore/Facebook.

President Joe Biden is slated to sign the Inflation Reduction Act into law Tuesday, including $369 billion to bolster energy security and address climate change.

During a press conference Monday, Maryland’s federal, state and local politicians; nonprofit and business leaders; and homeowners highlighted how the legislation will help homeowners make their homes more energy efficient and cut down on their energy bills.

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said that while energy efficiency improvements can lead to “tremendous savings,” homeowners are often impeded from pursuing those upgrades due to high upfront costs.

To address those costs, the Inflation Reduction Act will fund rebates for homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient.

Homeowners will get rebates of up to 50% of the costs they spend, up to $4,000. For lower and moderate income households, those rebates can go up to 80% of the cost, up to $8,000, according to U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume.

Mfume said Congress passed the legislation because “it’s doing what’s right.”

“For a lot of people, their dignity is tied to their house,” Mfume said. “Their dignity as a human being is often tied to what they can do and what they can provide. And their dignity ought to be augmented, whenever we can, by government assistance.”

Baltimore resident Diane Adams, who has been a homeowner in the city for 45 years, said she was particularly pleased to see assistance for moderate income homeowners like herself and other seniors who are on a “limited expendable income.”

“For those of us who want to be responsible citizens who live and are proud to be owners in Baltimore City, I am on the forefront to say thank you to the federal government, the state government, who allow a remedy for solutions for homeowners,” Adams said.

Joy Thomas Moore, board chair of GHHI and mother of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore, said the Inflation Reduction Act represents hope for a healthier and more affordable future for Maryland families.

“What I love about in particular, as part of this whole IRA effort is that it means hope as an umbrella,” she said. “Hope that our families will finally be able to do what they want to do with their homes, with their children, with their futures. It means that children can now have a chance to really go to school, healthy and self-assured that they are in an environment where they can learn, where they can grow, where they can excel, where they can have the opportunities that all children deserve.”

Climate change is an “existential threat” that “affects each and every one of us,” said Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson.

“Sometimes it can feel too big,” he said. “It can feel like ‘What can we really do about it? What is our role? How can we have a part?”

Although no individual alone can address that threat, Ferguson said, the federal legislation “puts money in homeowners’ hands and says ‘be part of the solution.’”

Residential buildings accounted for about one-fifth of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. in 2020, according to Kara Saul Rinaldi, vice president of government affairs at the Building Performance Association.

Helping homeowners improve their homes to be more energy efficient and training contractors to complete those upgrades is “a critical step in addressing the climate crisis,” Rinaldi said. She added that more than 1.83 million Maryland homes need energy efficiency upgrades.

In addition to allowing homeowners to more easily access much-needed upgrades, the legislation also includes $200 million to provide grants for workforce training.

Rinaldi said this is especially important in Maryland, where energy efficiency is the state’s largest energy sector, employing more than 65,000 workers.

“These grants will allow businesses to hire and to invest in their employees and undertake deep energy savings retrofits with cutting edge technology and it will train them to do that,” she said.

Tony Crane, co-owner and manager of Efficient Home LLC, said he encounters customers who have been forced to choose between paying their electric bill, buying food, or buying school supplies for their children.

“We go into people’s houses all the time, and they’re making difficult decisions, particularly with our recent inflationary challenges,” he said.

Crane said Efficient Home LLC has participated in income-qualified weatherization programs more than a decade, and that the federal legislation will make it easier for homeowners to update their homes’ energy systems.

Efficient Home LLC employs 30 workers, but Crane estimated that 65% of weatherization contractors in Maryland employ fewer than 20 workers. He said the new legislation will help businesses like his train more workers and help more customers.

“If we can get everybody moving in the right direction, I think it will really help the residents and help our climate change challenge,” he said.
Maryland Del. Lorig Charkoudian said the state must ensure that programs are implemented equitably to support disadvantaged residents.

“Our neighbors who are struggling the most to pay their bills, struggling the most with the health impacts of an unhealthy home, are the ones in whom we are succeeding the least. And that has got to change,” she said.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...