State and city not making weatherization goals

The national shortcomings of the federal stimulus act’s weatherization program were detailed in a Sunday Associated Press story, and a fresh look at local numbers show an equally dismal level of success.

The long-running federal weatherization assistance program, financed by the U.S. Department of Energy, pays for low-income households to get home improvements to keep their utility bills low. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the program got a $5 billion injection, with Louisiana getting $50 million to weatherize homes and create associated jobs.

Under the federal stimulus formula, the state had a monthly target of 260 houses to be weatherized in a month. The state got the stimulus contract in September, and by the end of December had worked on only 104 houses, according to a report on the Energy Department’s Web site.

The pace picked up in January, with another 271 done that month, according to a letter from the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency to Department of Energy Assistant Secretary Cathy Zoi, dated March 2.

In that letter, the finance agency, which administers the money for Louisiana, said the state is making “remarkable” progress with the stimulus money.

In New Orleans, 71 houses were weatherized from November to February. The local agency responsible for distributing weatherization contracts in New Orleans, Total Community Action, got a late start with the program because they had to be trained on wages and open-bid procedures. Through the end of December, the agency, whose share of the funds was $4.2 million, reported no jobs created.

Any jobs they retained were done so without stimulus help, according to their quarterly reports. Their next quarterly report will be available April 10. Statewide, 220 jobs were created with stimulus money through the end of January.

The lack of new jobs, and the failure to meet federal targets, is an issue affecting all states, as the Associated Press reported. Zoi letter backs that up.

“Even though 125,000 low-income homes were weatherized in 2009, and the production rate more than tripled since September 2009, too many states are well behind their target production rates,” Zoi wrote to the state in a Feb. 23 letter. “Progress must continue apace and every State must meet its targets to achieve the President’s national goal of 593,000 homes weatherized by March 2012.”

However, the Energy Department admitted in a March 24 memo that it is partly to blame.

“DOE recognizes that delays caused by issues such as the application of Davis-Bacon prevailing wage laws slowed states’ weatherization activity, leaving all states with only 24 months in which to meet 36 month production targets.”

The Energy Department is offering Louisiana help, in the form of additional staff and technical assistance, to help the state get back up to speed.

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  • A.B.

    Great piece. I don’t think this issue is on the radar as much as it should be. This story deserves more attention. Most folks may not understand what weatherization means. Hell, I don’t really understand it myself. But I do understand this—50 million dollars is A LOT of money. So I have a few questions:

    1. TCA received $4.2 million dollars and NO jobs were created? The state as a whole received $50 million? Please follow up on this. Where did the funds go?

    2. How is TCA qualified to run a weatherization program? They specialize in Head Start and consumer assistance programs…..

    3. How do you go from 104 weatherized homes in one month and 271 homes a month later? If zero jobs were created, how did they do this?