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Green Building News

Still a Slow Dance for Weatherization Funding in Some States

Reaching compliance with Davis-Bacon Act prevailing-wage rules took much longer than expected in parts of Pennsylvania and Washington state

Image Credit: U.S. Department of Energy

Pennsylvania and Washington, two of several states that have struggled with wage-setting rules for stimulus-funded weatherization work, appear ready to finally start weatherizing.

At issue, once again, were state program administrators’ difficulties reckoning with the Davis-Bacon Act. Imposed on weatherization programs for the first time, Davis-Bacon requires that weatherization workers be paid prevailing wage rates. Setting those rates accurately, however, often has meant determining prevailing wages on a county-by-county basis, which can be an unusually time-consuming process.

A recent story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, for example, cited hourly rates as low as $10 (in Pennsylvania’s Delaware County) and as high as $25 (in Philadelphia and Bucks counties). Most weatherization agencies in the state are now ready to start weatherizing, although the wage-setting process has put them several weeks behind schedule.

The weatherization deadline

That delay has created anxiety among some agency administrators, mainly because they have a limited amount of time to meet weatherization goals they agreed to with the Department of Energy earlier in the year. About half the $5 billion in stimulus funds has been allocated to states, but to qualify for the second allotment of federal funds, the agencies must meet their weatherization goals by fall of 2010.

“If we don’t meet our goals by September 30, we don’t get the second half of the stimulus money,” Walter Yakabosky, director of training for the Energy Coordinating Agency, in Philadelphia, told the Inquirer. “So everybody is getting a little crazy. We would have liked to have started training earlier.”

Pennsylvania expects to weatherize about 29,000 homes and create 940 jobs over the course of the entire stimulus-funded program.

The frustrations of wage-rule research

Similarly hectic scenarios have played out at agencies in Arizona, Indiana, Nevada, Idaho, and Michigan.

Confusion over how to mesh Davis-Bacon requirements, state wage rules, and prevailing-wage data put weatherization administrators in Washington state behind schedule as well. As a recent story in the Olympian pointed out, the results of a county-by-county wage survey, which was handled by the U.S. Department of Labor, weren’t completed until September 1. Further guidance from the state’s Department of Labor and Industries was required to come up with definitive wage-setting rules.

If they can get back on schedule, the state’s weatherization agencies will spend about 60 million stimulus dollars over the next couple years, creating an estimated 250 jobs and weatherizing almost 7,000 homes. Statewide, a little more than 100 homes have been weatherized using stimulus funds since October 1, the Olympian notes. But the original target for that date was 935 homes, so Washington’s weatherizing teams have their work cut out for them.

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