One key requirement of the stimulus-funded Weatherization Assistance Program is that agencies in each state meet certain goals by September 30 to qualify for further federal funds. Their goals were set last year, when the state agencies submitted their WAP proposals for approval by the Department of Energy.
By December, all participants knew where they stood, or should be standing.
However, implementing a vastly expanded weatherization program has time and again proven to be not only new turf for those involved but more challenging than many of them could have imagined. One of the front-running contenders for the WAP Laggard of the Year title is, according to findings released by an independent auditor, California, which has otherwise led the nation in deployment of more-stringent construction code and other environment-friendly initiatives.
Getting a grip on controls
Evidence of California’s struggle to gear up its bureaucratic infrastructure came to light this week in a report by the California State Auditor, Elaine Howle, who noted that as of December 1, the state’s Department of Community Services and Development had yet to develop internal spending controls and had attempted none of the 15,000 weatherization retrofits it would need to complete by September 30 to qualify for a second installment of stimulus funds – in this case $93 million. (Should it meet its deadlines, the state would receive a total of $186 million in stimulus funds for WAP services.)
The CSD’s director, Lloyd Throne, told the Associated Press pretty much what weatherization officials in other states have said about their programs’ slow starts: it’s better to fully establish ground rules and safeguards before going into the field. And the litany of program-setup issues in California really weren’t much different from those elsewhere: confusion over wage rules and difficulties in establishing and scaling up protocols for program oversight and implementation.
The CSD hangs tough
Throne’s outlook echoed that of his counterparts in other states when he added that “service providers throughout the state are working hard to do their part and have been fully supportive of (the) program’s underpinnings of transparency. CSD is confident it will meet its goals and objectives for the benefit of California’s low-income communities.”
Since December 1, the state has completed upgrades in 221 homes, about 1.5% of its goal. Obviously, weatherization activity in the state is expected to accelerate dramatically over the next few months.