$5 billion in Recovery Act funds was aimed at weatherizing low-income housing to save money and create jobs, but the year-old program has barely gotten off the ground.
Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 05:55 PM
Photo: Mary Ann Chastain/AP
President Obama wanted to make low-income housing more energy efficient as a way to save money, reduce emissions and create jobs.
But according to a new report from the Energy Department’s inspector general, the program has barely gotten off the ground a year after it started, according to the New York Times. In fact, some of the larger states have met less than 2 percent of their three-year goals, a delay Inspector General Gregory H. Friedman called “alarming.”
The 2009 Recovery Act included $5 billion to weatherize U.S. homes and apartments over a three-year period, up from $450 million the previous fiscal year. But as of mid-February, less than 8 percent of allocated funds were spent.
“The job creation impact of what was considered to be one of the department’s most ‘shovel ready’ projects has not materialized,” the report said.
For example, New York completed 280 weatherization projects, far short of a goal of weatherizing 45,400 homes over three years. In Illinois, where officials wanted to hire 21 workers to do work on 27,000 homes, no one was hired because of a spending freeze. As a result, only 331 homes were weatherized.
For their part, state officials said the dramatic increase in funding was tough to keep up with. “We went from a budget of $13 million for weatherizations to $327 million,” said Gordon Anderson, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. “So we needed to get a serious plan in place to assure that our agency and all our contractors had the adequate capacity to administer the funds.”
According to the report, the delay is a product of red tape and bureaucracy. But hiring freezes also have sidelined many workers. Meanwhile, wage restrictions prevented some states form hiring workers until this past fall.
Since then, Energy officials said the pace has picked up. “Since September 2009, we have tripled the pace of Recovery Act-funded home weatherization,” Cathy Zoi, the Energy Department’s assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy said in a statement.