Energy Funds Went Unspent, U.S. Auditor Says
The recession is lingering, and so is the unspent stimulus money that was meant to help end it.
The latest example is the $3.2 billion that Congress voted in February 2009 as part of an economic stimulus package to simultaneously provide jobs and improve energy efficiency through block grants to states and cities.
Only about 8.4 percent of the money had been spent by the beginning of this month, according to an audit released on Friday by the inspector general of the Energy Department, and it has produced or saved only about 2,300 jobs as of the second quarter of this year.
The program was to provide money for the purchase of better lighting or heating and cooling equipment for buildings like city halls and schools. But it is off to the same slow start as a bigger program that was initiated at the same time to weatherize the homes of low-income people around the country. An audit of that program in February, also by the inspector general, found that only $368.2 million of $4.73 billion, or less than 8 percent, had been spent.
And why has the federal government been unable to spend the money more quickly?
The strings on the weatherization program were rules like one requiring that people spending federal dollars pay the “prevailing wage.” The government had no established number for the prevailing wage for fields like insulation installers.
In another state (Nevada), the massive influx of stimulus funds met with delays and confusion after organized labor claimed it wasn’t getting a big enough share. After the stimulus passed, Nevada Democrats passed a law requiring half the new workers to have gone though union apprenticeships, adding to the cost of the program and slowing its pace. On top of that, the AFL-CIO sued the state housing division, arguing that all the new jobs should pay union wages and benefits. States and unions are involved in similar disputes in other states, leading even green advocates to question how much bang for the buck the program is providing.
Will somebody please put these programs out of our misery already?