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1.) Template Letter to State Energy Offices

2.) Recommendations for State Energy Offices

Federal climate policies like the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 authorized hundreds of billions of dollars of programs, with many of their benefits targeted to low-income and disadvantaged communities. In the United States Immigrant and refugee communities are historically burdened with environmental injustice, and these policies represent an opportunity to draw down billions in federal dollars to projects that directly benefit our communities. 

Unfortunately immigrant and refugee communities face significant obstacles to benefiting from the transition to a cleaner energy system, even as many immigrants and refugees are themselves on the frontlines of experiencing the impacts of climate change. Barriers like language access, lack of culturally competent outreach, exclusions based on immigration status, and mistrust of government agencies keep many eligible households from accessing the benefits of the energy transition. In California, a 2013 survey of low-income households found that, compared to households with a primary language of Spanish or another non-English language,  awareness of two different energy assistance programs was 15 to 20 percent higher among households that spoke English only.

The Home Energy Rebate Program authorized by the Inflation Reduction Act provides almost $9 billion in incentives to households for home efficiency and electrification upgrades, offsetting costs for measures like insulation, installing a high efficiency heat-pump, or replacing gas stoves with induction cooktops. Thanks to advocacy from environmental justice advocates, including NPNA’s Climate Justice Collaborative, The Department of Energy (DOE) issued guidance last year that established a strong equity baseline for the program, notably requiring that states reserve 40 percent of rebate funds for low-income households and another 10 percent for multifamily affordable housing. In addition, states “are strongly encouraged to establish partnerships with and provide funding to community-based organizations” and other groups “that represent or work with underserved households to reach and engage with these communities effectively over the life of the program.” Setting the stage for states to fund community navigator or promotores programs. 

Now the program will be implemented by State Energy Offices and there remain many challenges for states and program administrators in implementing these rebates in a way that advances equity and brings real benefits to the communities with the greatest vulnerability to climate risks. 

That’s why NPNA’s Climate Justice Collaborative  partnered with Just Solutions Collective to develop resources for community-based organizations, to help empower communities to engage with their State Energy Office and advocate for their own visions for energy equity. These resources include recommendations for State Energy Offices on how to design their rebate programs to promote immigrant inclusion, and a template letter that advocacy groups can adapt and send along with the recommendations.

To ensure that immigrant and refugee communities can access and benefit from the Home Energy Rebates, we make five key recommendations to State Energy Offices:

1) Create a language access plan

2.) Fund and work with community organizations throughout the program

3.) Provide a variety of methods for eligibility verification, including self-attestation

4.) Do not require Social Security Numbers or take other steps that would discriminate based on national origin or immigration status

5.) Track and publish language and cultural competencies of qualified contractors

NPNA’s Climate Justice Collaborative is also working with member organizations to develop template resources for Navigator/Promotores programs that connect immigrant and refugee households to these benefits. 

If you’d like to learn more, or get support for this work from the Climate Justice Collaborative contact