In his visit to Manchester, N.H., Biden said the program already had retrofitted 200,000 homes and would meet its ambitious goals of nearly 600,000 homes by March 2012.
He called it “one of our signature programs” under the stimulus law, saying that “thousands of construction workers across the country are now on the job making energy-saving home improvements that will save working families hundreds of dollars a year on their utility bills.”
What Biden failed to mention:
_In Alaska, the program has yet to retrofit one home.
_In Texas, auditors found the private contractor earning the most in stimulus money did shoddy work on 60 percent of the houses it was hired to weatherize.
_In California, a contracting company paid nearly $3 million to caulk low-income residents’ homes didn’t train two dozen of its employees, the state’s inspector general found last week.
Just months ago, at the one-year anniversary of the stimulus law, the Energy Department’s inspector general complained in a report about “little progress” weatherizing homes and said the government’s best efforts “appeared not to have significantly increased the tempo of actual units weatherized across the nation.”
Government rules about how to run the complex program, including how much to pay contractors and how to protect historic homes, were among early hurdles. There were further, unexpected delays as the money flowed from Washington to the states and later to local nonprofits that hired contractors. The recession itself, and state hiring freezes, compounded the problems.
Why would politicians tout a federal spending program with so many challenges? Democratic officials in Washington say they are eager this election year to promote stimulus spending in “bite-sized” pieces. Democrats said polling suggests that voters are more likely to support their record if they can see tangible benefits of the spending, such as winter weatherization programs or smoother roads.
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