Hope for the HOMES Act Comes During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As soon as the nation began shutting down in response to the pandemic, America’s energy efficiency workforce – the biggest energy workforce in the nation — began to dissolve. Residential contractors were immediately impacted as their line of work depends on physical visits to homes. While HVACR contractor have been designated as “essential workers” during this pandemic (thanks to the work of ACCA and our members!), HVACR businesses are still struggling to stay afloat during this financial crisis.
We have already seen several COVID-19 related stimulus packages intended to support small businesses be signed into law, and ACCA fought to ensure there were pro-business provisions included And, ACCA continues to fight for contractor priorities to be included in additional stimulus programs that Congress is considering. As of press time, ACCA is pushing for H.R. 2043, the Home Owner Managing Energy Savings Act of 2019 (HOMES Act), to be included in another stimulus. Among other benefits, the HOMES Act would provide rebates to homeowners who invest in efficiency improvements. Homeowners demonstrating at least a 20 percent energy savings will receive a $2,500 rebate and those who demonstrate a 40 percent savings will receive a $5,000 rebate.
For a homeowner to receive the rebate, they would be required to work with a contractor who meets specific qualifications, including being accredited through either ACCA’s Quality Assurance program. This could be a boom to ACCA’s Quality Assured contractors!
In addition to the HOMES Act, ACCA has been supporting for a strengthened version of the HOMES Act in Congress – the Home On-line Performance-based Energy Efficiency (HOPE) trainings (HOPE4HOMES) Act.. This more robust package would providing funding for workforce training during the pandemic. HOPE4HOMES would help train contractors to evaluate residential buildings’ energy use and design a retrofit and/or install high-performing features, such as HVAC systems, to reduce the overall energy consumption and increase resilience. This is key to keeping residents healthy and safe during the shelter-in-place scenario while providing a safe online learning for contractors!
HOPE4HOMES would provide grants to training organizations, HVACR businesses and trainees, as well as State Energy Offices to supplement certified HOPE trainings. There is an extensive list of trainings included in the HOPE4HOMES. ACCA trainings include:
- Residential HVAC Design for Quality Installation
- Technicians Field Practices for Quality Installation
- Home Evaluation and Performance Improvement
- Duct Design Basics
- Duct Diagnostic and Repairs
- Entry Level Technicians
Funding for this program would come in the form of grants provided by the Department of Energy and would be used for certified training programs exceeding 30 hours. HVACR businesses would receive up to $5,000 per employee to be trained, to be used for payroll costs (including wages and benefits) during the training, including workers who have recently been rehired to engage in training or new hires hired with the purpose of training. Contractors would also receive a stipend of up to $1,000 for completing the HOPE for HOMES training.
Should HOPE4HOMES be included in the next stimulus package it would incentivize the HVACR industry to continue training a highly qualified workforce while paying their current employees through the pandemic, avoiding lay-offs and furloughs.
ACCA has continued to support initiatives that drive home the important message behind quality installation practices. According to the EPA, more than 40 percent of all HVAC systems are improperly installed in a home. Generally, an improper installation occurs when the equipment isn’t properly sized, the ducts are too small or leaky, or the refrigerant charge is inadequate. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) study has cited poorly installed HVAC systems to cause most homes to use 30 percent or more energy than they should. With access to the HOPE4HOMES trainings, HVACR businesses have the opportunity to put their customer at ease by training a strong credible workforce to provide quality installations across the country.
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