September 14, 2010; Source: Abilene Reporter News | There is obviously much more to the story than this brief squib tells. After a state-ordered audit of this Abilene, Texas community action agency bookkeeping some months ago, the state government apparently shut down state funding flowing through the agency.
The CAP’s board essentially gave up the fight and decided to shut down when it wasn’t able to get the state to restore the funding. A June report in the Texas Watchdog said that a $5.6 million stimulus grant for weatherization had been halted due to reports of mismanagement, though the Watchdog reported that state inspectors “found administrative, workmanship and accounting problems with seven community groups,” not just the Abilene organization.
The suspension of stimulus money for the CAP in the Spring left $4 million on the table, including $3 million for weatherization and another $1 million for utility assistance. Something doesn’t add up. When the CAP was confronted with management problems the board decided to lay off all of its 22 employees. How was the organization supposed to make the case for demonstrating that it made improvements warranting a restoration of the moneys if all of the weatherization staff were hitting the bricks?
The state talked about a seamless handover of the CAP’s programs to other providers, but the other weatherization services groups—Abilene Neighborhoods in Progress, Habitat for Humanity, and others—appeared to be caught unprepared. Accountability is important in spending federal stimulus funds. Lack of capacity has to be corrected. But the actions of the board, the state, and the other nonprofits seem to add up to one thing: the low-income people of Abilene, Texas are likely to lose out on critical weatherization and utility assistance dollars.—Rick Cohen