A federal report has been critical of the progress made by the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) in spending the $5 billion in stimulus funding it received last year.
The U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General Special Report OAS-RA-10-04 entitled "Progress in Implementing the Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" summarized implementation as follows: “As of February 2010, the one-year anniversary of the Recovery Act, only a small percentage of Recovery Act weatherization funds had been spent and few homes had actually been weatherized.”
It added that only $368.2 million (less than 8 percent) of the total award of $4.73 billion had been drawn by grantees for weatherization work and, as of February 16, of the 586,015 homes slated for weatherization services, only 30,297 had been weatherized.
Federal investigators acknowledged that states’ progress was hindered by federal regulations, in particular, a requirement that recipients of weatherization funds pay laborers at least the prevailing wage under the Davis-Bacon Act. This requirement was not previously applicable to weatherization activities, thus, states lacked information on which to base wage rates. As a result, wage determinations for each of the geographical areas expected to receive weatherization funds had to be obtained from the Department of Labor and this took until September 2009. States were also hampered by hiring freezes, employee furloughs, and budget impasses.
Another roadblock, pointed out by the National Association for State Community Services Programs (NASCSP) in a response to the report, was a stipulation that any dwelling older than 50 years must be reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) before weatherization. “Most SHPOs were not staffed or prepared for the magnitude of reviews that could be necessary, as a large number of the low-income homes eligible for weatherization are over 50 years old,” NASCSP wrote.
Acknowledging the slow rate of ARRA implementation, NASCSP continued, “While the weatherization of homes with ARRA funds has not been at the pace anticipated, it is important to note that homes have continued to be weatherized using regular 2009 Department of Energy, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, utility, and other funds. The WAP network is fully capable of meeting the goals of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and is well on the way to doing so. While there have been significant delays at all levels of the Program, these have since been ironed out.”
NASCSP is a professional membership organization for the state and territorial administrators of the WAP and the Department of Health and Human Services Community Services Block Grant (CSBG).
Source: DOE-IG and NASCSP