Proposal for a heat pump rebate program

 

At our November Action Meeting, SSCAN decided to endorse the  Interfaith Climate Action – First Hill’s Heat Pump Rebate Program.

The Concept

Interfaith Climate Action – First Hill (a collaboration between Seattle First Baptist Church and Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue) is concerned about the difficulty faced by homeowners who wish to replace climate-disrupting gas furnaces with clean electric heat pumps.

If Seattle is going to meet its Green New Deal goal of eliminating greenhouse gas pollution by 2030 (or even its Climate Action Plan goal of net zero emissions by 2050), fossil fuel heating sources must be replaced by clean-energy devices. Household gas furnaces are a major source of climate pollution. Except for a city program supporting conversion of oil furnaces to heat pumps, no financial support is available for homeowners who wish to purchase heat pumps but cannot afford to do so.

Heat pumps also provide important health benefits in this era of climate disruption. First, they offer air conditioning as we face increasingly hot weather. This particularly benefits households in hotter parts of the city with lots of pavement and a lack of shade from trees. Second, they filter out air pollutants, addressing three health threats: ongoing exposure to toxic pollutants, the growing number of days when wildfires make outdoor air unhealthy, and the disproportionate vulnerability of poor and minority families to asthma and other pollution-related health conditions.

Interfaith Climate Action – First Hill proposes to create and operate a fund under the auspices of an IRS-recognized 501(c)(3) organization. This fund would offer rebates to a limited number of households with incomes below the city median. We would reach out to other worship communities and climate action groups, and would invite their members to contribute to the fund and to apply for rebates.

The program goals are to:

  • enable more homeowners to purchase heat pumps,
  • educate the public on the need for conversions to heat pumps; and
  • build support for a publicly funded citywide rebate or grant program.

This draft framework suggests how we might solicit contributions, reach out to applicants for rebates, and decide who will receive rebates.

 Numbers and amounts of rebates

The number of rebates we can support depends on total contributions and the amount of each rebate. We propose to offer rebates between $2,500 and $5,000, based on the income of the applicant. Rebates of $5,000 would be offered to applicants with lower incomes (tentatively under $75,000, or 73 percent of Seattle median income). Rebates of $2,500 would be offered to homeowners with incomes above $102,486 (median income). A sliding scale would be used to determine rebate amounts for applicants with incomes between $75,000 and $102,486.Assuming we raise $10,000 in the first year, we would expect to offer two to four rebates.

Rebate qualification and award process

Application must be submitted by August 1, 2021. Contractor bids must be submitted by September 1, 2021. Applicant will be notified after the application deadline whether he or she qualifies for a rebate, subject to available funding and application of tie-breakers. Heat pumps qualifying for rebates may be limited to those whose noise ratings are below a threshold to be established.

Minimum qualifications:Reside within Seattle city limits.

Fill out an application by August 1, 2021 providing name, household size, annual incomes of all employed household members, address, house size (square footage and number of floors), and prior year IRS Form 1040.

Submit heat pump installation bids by September 15, 2021 from three contractors.

If selected for rebate, submit invoice from contractor after completion of work.

Preferential criteria (tie-breakers) used to select rebate recipients:

Lower income

Geographic and racial diversity

Earlier submittal of complete application

Earlier submittal of bids from contractors

 Qualifying for a larger rebate

 Larger rebates may be provided, depending on amount of available funds, to applicants who meet the income limit set by the City of Seattle’s HomeWise program ($61,800 for a household of one and $88,250 for a household of four in 2019).

 Funding

Funds for rebates would come primarily from individual contributions. We could invite institutions in our outreach plan to contribute, but we anticipate most contributions would be personal.

 

The $10,000 target for total contributions is based on two factors. One is that last year’s carbon offset purchases, with publicity only through the Interfaith Climate Action/First Baptist/Bet Alef communities, totaled approximately $3,500 ($700 from First Baptist and $2,800 from households). Reaching out to other faith and climate action communities with whom we have relationships will widen the circle of giving. We believe the idea of helping our lower-income Seattle neighbors purchase climate-friendly heat pumps is a compelling proposition.

 501(c)(3) sponsorship

We are seeking a 501(c)(3) nonprofit partner to receive contributions, disburse rebates and, we hope, to work as a full partner. An administrator and director of One Sustainable Planet have expressed their willingness to help. However, the research committee believes it would be preferable to affiliate with a better known organization with a paid staff.

 Outreach to partners

We would publicize the program to communities with whom we have a relationship and/or who we believe would be receptive. We would make two requests: 1) Consider making individual and group donations to the rebate program. 2) Invite your members and friends to apply for rebates. We might also consider asking heating, ventilation and cooling companies to contribute to this program, which will encourage purchases of home heat pumps.

We would seek outside expertise to assist in graphic design, web design and a web payment portal. Two people we might ask are Bet Alef/First Baptist publicist and webmaster Katie Sturm and First Baptist technical assistant Kellie Whitlock.

We would send an introductory email to contacts in our target groups, following up with phone calls, to acquaint them with the concept, ask for their support, offer publicity materials, and offer to meet with any interested groups at a place and time of their choosing.