Magic Valley nonprofit sends director to Washington to secure funding

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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) As the country waited to see if the federal government would shut down last week, one Magic Valley nonprofit director watched as well. After all Ken Robinette's ticket to D.C. wasn't refundable.

When an extension was penned, that confirmed one thing for Robinette, he would get a chance to tell members of congress about his programs.

Rep. Mike Simpson invited Robinette to talk about the Weatherization Assistance Program, or WAP, to the House Energy and Water Subcommittee. Simpson chairs the committee.

Robinette is the director and CEO of South Central Community Action Partnership. In the Magic Valley they oversee the federally funded WAP program. The 40-year-old program has helped about 7.4 million households over the years become more energy efficient.

"Which allows people to save money on their heating bills so that they can use that for food or medicine," Robinnette said.

Most years Robinette doesn't worry about the WAP program losing funding, especially not losing all of it's funding. But when President Donald Trump released a budget proposal, WAP was on the list of programs zeroed out.

"It was alarming and it was concerning," Robinette said.

More concerning was the fact that President Trump suggested that every program SCCAP oversees should be de-funded. An act that would essentially be the demise of the nonprofit.

"If the funding is completely taken out of the budget, we will be forced to close our doors," Robinette said.

It wouldn't be immediate, they have enough operational funding to run for another two years. Robinette is also quick to point out that the President's proposal is just that, a proposal. Ultimately it's up to congress which programs will get how much funding next year.

Nerveless, it's concerning for Robinette and SCCAP, and the nonprofit which assists 15 to 20 thousand people every year is bracing for cuts.

But not without Robinette stating his case. At least about the WAP program.

"We hope that when we are through the process, the budget process, that congress will continue to provide support for the weatherization program as they have for the past 40 years," Robinette said.

The funding for WAP comes from the Department of Energy. Under that section on President Trump's proposal it reads:

"In addition, the Budget eliminates the Weatherization Assistance Program and the State Energy Program to reduce Federal intervention in State-level energy policy and implementation. Collectively, these changes achieve a savings of approximately $2 billion from the 2017 annualized CR level."

Robinette said the program saves families an average of 30% on energy bills, he also argues that for every $1 invested in weatherization, $2.78 are generated in health and safety benefits. SCCAP helps about 80 homes in the Magic Valley with weatherization per year.

Among the other programs SCCAP would stand to have cut under the President's plan are the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Community Services Block Grant Program, something Robinette says the organization uses for heat bill assistance and emergency services respectively. Both programs are under the Department of Health and Human Services and the Trump Administration says would save the federal government $4.2 billion to eliminate.

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