Who could forget the $5 billion in Obama administration stimulus money that was going to rapidly create nearly 90,000 green jobs across the country in these tough economic times and make so many thousands of homes all snuggy and warm and energy-efficient these very snowy days?
Well, a new report due out this morning will show the $5-billion program is so riddled with drafts that so far it’s weatherized only about 9,000 homes.
Based on the initial Obama-Biden program promise that it would create 87,000 new jobs its first year, that would be about 10 jobs for each home weatherized so far. Makes for pretty crowded doorways.
ABC News reports that the General Accountability Office will declare today that the Energy Department has fallen woefully behind — about 98.5% behind — the 593,000 homes it initially predicted would be weatherized in the Recovery Act’s very first, very chilly year.
(UPDATE 12:22 p.m. An Energy spokeswoman disputes the independent GAO numbers as outdated and conclusions as inaccurate. Full statement below.)
The Energy Department is run by Steven Chu, like President Obama a Nobel Prize winner. You’ll never guess what the federal government blames for the lack of significant progress.
Not duct tape. Not weatherstripping. But that infamous RED tape. In the form of, well, forms.
It seems that the Pelosi-Reid stimulus plan that was so quickly cobbled together and….
…was supposed to immediately pump so much money into the sagging economy last year included an 80-year-old legal provision requiring all federally funded projects to pay a prevailing wage to workers.
But what’s a prevailing wage for weatherization, you ask?
So the Energy Department asked the Labor Department, which set out to calculate what a prevailing weatherization wage is in every single one of the more than 3,000 counties across these United States.
There were some other things to figure out. It seems the law also requires some kind of National Trust for Historic Preservation review for most homes before any contracts could be estimated to be negotiated to be signed to be let to be begun. And states like Michigan have two people assigned to such tasks.
So, good luck speeding up that work.
The Energy folks did tell ABC they’ve so far spent 522-million Recovery Act dollars on the program. So, let’s see, about 9,100 homes divided into that chunk of stimulation change to believe in is — gee! — about $57,362 worth of very expensive weatherstripping for each home fixed up so far.
Seems believable for a federal program.
(Energy GAO reaction: “The GAO report cites figures from September 2009 — almost five months out of date. Since then, we have resolved Davis-Bacon wage issues in all 50 states, clarified how states should handle historic preservation and worked with states to resolve any remaining barriers. As a result, by the end of 2009, our programs had weatherized about 124,000 homes in total, and we are on track to weatherize more than 250,000 this year. In fact, since September 2009, we have tripled the pace of Recovery Act funded home weatherization. The report also erroneously implies that our goal was to weatherize 593,000 homes in 2009. That is wrong. The goal has been to weatherize that number by March 2012, and we are on track to meet that goal.”)
— Andrew Malcolm