By Jeff Dorian, Orlando Citizens’ Climate Lobby
If you listen to Ben Shapiro’s “Daily Wire,” he’ll convince you the Inflation Reduction Act is a “boondoggle.”
Maybe that explains why Florida won’t be receiving almost $350 million from the act, meant specifically for low-income citizens to upgrade their appliances to electric and insulate residences to conserve energy. Gov. Ron DeSantis’s line-item veto of two federal block grants worth $29 million in June triggered the cancellation of federal block grants totaling $346 million.
Having read all about it, and even asking my state senator and U.S. congressman about it, I’m still flummoxed. Using the IRA funds would require $0 from Florida’s budget. The state also would benefit from good jobs created in the home-improvement industry and retail sales paid for by rebates for these upgrades.
This veto marked the one-year anniversary of the IRA’s passage, and the 60-year anniversary of the March on Washington and the famous “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. How ironic that the wheels of government are turning through the IRA at this time to help lift up disadvantaged, low-income households but are stopped in their tracks. Anyone who grew up in or has spent time in low-income neighborhoods doesn’t have to think hard about how difficult it is to lift a family out of poverty.
The IRA grants aren’t simply handing out money. Rather, they provide for vouchers for specific rebates on home improvements to make them healthier and more efficient, using less power and gas. Those living in these homes and apartments that qualify likely have these improvements low on their list of priorities, resulting in their residences being some of the least efficient and most costly to cool and heat.
A recent report from Greenlink Analytics shows a large disparity between the energy burden faced by different communities across Orlando, from a low of 1.8% to as high as 9.2%. Energy burden is the percent of income spent on electricity and gas bills. The national average of the percentage of household earnings going toward energy costs is roughly 4%.
The IRA helps mitigate the disparities faced by low-income communities that experience more than twice the energy burden than the national average. Their affluent neighbors have four times less energy burden. Those more affluent neighbors can benefit from generous tax credits included in the IRA for similar smart energy home improvements.
Maybe our governor wants to be considered fiscally conservative. I’m sure he has his reasons. It’s well known that he wants to be seen as on a high moral ground, embracing Christian values. That’s a great ideal. These federal appropriations are an opportunity to act on a Christian bedrock value for Florida citizens. It’s written in the Bible: “Blessed is he who has regard for the weak.” (Psalm 41:1).
I can only hope and pray the governor’s veto nixing these much-needed home improvements can be reversed.
Jeff Dorian is the chapter co-leader of the Orlando Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that brings together volunteers from across the political spectrum to advocate for legislation to tackle climate change. This opinion piece was originally published by the Orlando Sentinel, which is a media partner of The Invading Sea.