Nonprofit Newswire | Weatherization Funds Frozen by Process

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February 20, 2010; News Observer  | The consistently troubled part of the stimulus funding has been the weatherization dollars that are meant to flow to and through community action agencies. Repeatedly, as this article from North Carolina points out, the weatherization funds have been slow to get out, with the threat that moneys unspent by March 2012 will have to be returned to the federal government. Plenty of people could use the benefits of free insulation, duct sealing, and central heating and cooling system repairs. In North Carolina, weatherization crews were supposed to start working in July, but didn’t hit the streets until November. According to the News & Observer, the GAO has counted 9,100 homes weatherized as of December 31, 2009—compared to a target of 593,000 nationwide. The article hints that the problem is the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements for weatherization contractors. Also cited as a problem are the multiple layers of certification required to assure that the funds are spent accountably. The state warned the 30 nonprofits designated for weatherization money in North Carolina “not to use the funds to finance regular operations . . . [and] not to use the money to pay employee bonuses.” The article cites one government guy defending the sticky controls in historical reference, pointing out that the banks misused their access to stimulus funds, so you have to be on your toes to watch out for potentially shady nonprofit weatherization players. Nice cover, but we think the consistent pattern around the nation on weatherization funding exhibits some level of state government distrust of nonprofits, in this case, community action agencies. We think that the distrust is unwarranted, especially in states whose governmental agencies and legislatures have been awash in ethical crises (North Carolina has had its share, with state and federal legislators—or their families—caught with their hands in the till). Thinking of being true partners with weatherization nonprofits rather than unwarrantably imperious scolds would help state governments start pumping the weatherization dollars out to benefit homeowners and tenants who need the assistance.—Rick Cohen