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March 18, 2010:

  • Weatherization Monies Finally Moving in Texas
    At the meeting of the Board of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs on March 11, the agency staff found that the 32 weatherization service providers and 12 cities that received federal “stimulus” dollars are finally actually doing what they are supposed to – albeit slowly -- and weatherizing homes belonging to Texans at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

    In addition, the TDHCA Board approved publishing new rules that will allow the agency to move money from one service provider to another if they fail to meet targets agreed to in their plans.

    Finally, the Board also approved an updated plan for how they will spend both the stimulus monies that arrived in 2009 and additional grants in 2010 which should allow for even more weatherization.

    TDHCA photoThe uptick in activity comes on the heels of a report by the U.S. General Accounting Office that found that Texas had spent virtually no money weatherizing homes – despite receiving nearly $327 million through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). A series of press articles have detailed the difficulty for both TDHCA and the actual providers receiving the monies to train, hire, and meet new federal guidelines.

    According to staff at TDHCA, many of those initial problems in getting plans approved and meeting federal labor guidelines have been solved, though some issues still need clarification. Delay has also occurred as TDHCA gave about a third of the money to 12 cities in Texas, none of which had ever run DOE-approved weatherization programs before.

    According to the staff presentation, through the end of February, some $11 million out of $326.9 million had been spent, in the process weatherizing 1,423 homes or units. While only a tiny percentage – about 3.4 percent of the total 35,000 homes anticipated to be weatherized – the staff claimed that 118 jobs had been created or saved through the spending of $11 million, and that they expected that several thousand more homes would be completed in the coming months as trained auditors and weatherization teams begin descending on neighborhoods. They said they still expected that all federal stimulus funds would be spent by April of 2012.

    In addition to the $326 million, the State of Texas is getting a total of $37,257,799 in additional federal monies this fiscal year for weatherization, and the TDHCA Board approved disbursing the monies to the existing network of service providers, but not including the 12 cities that began new weatherization programs using the federal stimulus.

    While the Sierra Club supported the proposed plan, the Club suggested during the meeting that TDHCA require each of the service providers to have a plan – including a centralized website – where residents can get information about how to weatherize their homes as well as providing a more user-friendly TDHCA website for the same.

    Under proposed rules approved for publication and comment, the TDHCA will be able to consider pulling monies from its sub-recipients if they fail to meet targets on the number of homes weatherized or other measures.

    TDHCA would attempt to make sure those regions still received money but were served by a different subcontractor, but the potential still exists for money to be taken from one region and given to another.

The State Capitol E-Report is a monthly electronic update from the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club reporting on Texas environmental policy issues of statewide interest. Contact us at: lonestar.chapter@sierraclub.org ...Header photo by Susan Heller
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