Stimulus Cash Slow to Reach Target: Millions Unspent in Conn.

December 19, 2010; Source: Hartford Courant | Nearly two full years into the federal stimulus plan, some critical resources appear stuck in the pipeline. Last year, the $64 million for weatherization activities in Connecticut became available (Connecticut’s pre-stimulus weatherization funding was $2.5 million). However, so far, the state has only spent 20 percent of its allotment and weatherized 36 percent of the 7,500 units it hopes to finish by 2012 (the spending deadline is March 31, 2012). The state explained its slow pace by pointing to regulatory issues concerning the application of federal Davis-Bacon wage rates, but those problems were solved long ago, and officials now say that the program is moving along. Still, getting US Department of Energy technical approvals seems to have slowed the pace of weatherization in state-financed housing complexes. The Hartford Courant pointed out that the state itself was an obstacle.

Initially the state’s Department of Social Services gave $19 million to the Department of Economic and Community Development that would manage the work in the state financed units, but then reversed itself when it figured out that adding another state agency to the process would only make the bureaucratic process more labored and confusing. No wonder nonprofit advocates in Connecticut are not happy with the state’s progress.

The challenge posed by the advocates, not fully explained in the article, is that the bulk of Connecticut’s pre-stimulus weatherization program, like that of most states, was geared to single family homes, maybe including some two-families or even quads, but multi-family properties like the state’s senior citizen complexes have long been in need of weatherization upgrades but have been out of the running for traditional weatherization funding. Moreover, weatherizing units in multi-family properties usually requires addressing other delayed or deferred maintenance and renovation needs, requiring a broadening of the potential scope of the uses of the funds.

Give the advocates credit for pushing the envelope. Hopefully the nonprofits will be able to push the state bureaucracy to get the dollars moving so that the Nutmeg State isn’t returning weatherization dollars to the federal treasury in 2012.—Rick Cohen