September 10, 2021
Extreme temperatures across California and the West have fueled a spike in heat-related illness and death this summer, and lack of access to cooling is a major risk factor. The funding package takes aim at expanding access to cooling through landmark investments in both heat pumps in homes and resilience centers in communities.
A portion of the $400 million allocated to miscellaneous resiliency programs is expected to go to programs to upgrade homes with highly efficient electric heat pumps, which provide both cooling in the summer and heating in the winter. These updates, in addition to boosting resilience during heat waves, will also cut climate pollution, as heat pumps can eliminate the need for fossil fuel furnaces during the winter months.
“The reality is that in a hotter California, access to cooling in homes is a survival necessity. By equipping homes with highly efficient heat pump cooling systems, we can keep families safe during bouts of extreme heat, while reducing our state’s reliance on fossil fuels,” said Jose Torres, California Director at the Building Decarbonization Coalition.
Lawmakers’ $100 million investment in community resilience centers will also go a long way to protecting households during heat waves. Community resilience centers located at trusted places like libraries, community centers and places of worship are designed to provide a convenient place for households to cool off during bouts of extreme heat, as well as access backup power and on-going community services and programs.
“This groundbreaking investment in community resilience hubs goes much further than the addition of cooling centers, which have been underutilized in the past. These hubs are designed to be places where community members can gather and access the services they need, both during periods of extreme heat, and throughout the year,” said Amee Raval, Policy and Research Director at the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.
Research shows that low-income communities are especially vulnerable to the heat-related health impacts, as they are less likely to have access to cooling at home. To maximize the life-saving impact of California’s extreme heat programs, it will be essential that low-income communities are first-in-line for investment.
The budget trailer bill next moves to Governor Newsom’s desk, where he is expected to sign the funding bill into law.