Remember the $5 billion “Cash for Caulkers” home weatherization program included in the stimulus? The one that the president wants triple funding for as part of his new “jobs”/stimulus-redux bill? The one that was supposed to create jobs, improve energy efficiency, and weatherize 593,000 homes through 2012?
“A reader points to this Texas Watchdog report on Cash for Caulkers spending in Texas, where 47 homes have so far been weatherized at a cost of $3.7 million, or $78,000 per house. Nor is it a case of $500 hammers. The cost-per-household for materials and labor works out to just about $4,255. The rest of the money went toward growing the government housing bureaucracy.”
Well, so far it has weatherized just 9,100, according to a GAO report (though to be fair, the Department of Energy, which administers the program, claims they’ve actually completed a whopping 22,000).Why the delay?
The problem is red tape, according to the GAO. Local governments and contractors have to jump through several hoops before getting full funding.
For example, the Recovery Act included so-called Davis-Bacon requirements for all weatherization grants. Davis-Bacon is a Depression-era law meant to ensure equitable pay for workers on federally funded projects. Under that law, the grants may only go to projects that pay a “prevailing wage” on par with private-sector employers.
The Department of Labor spent most of the past year trying to determine the prevailing wage for weatherization work, a determination that had to be made for each of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States, according to the GAO report.
Secondly, many homes have to go through a National Historic Preservation Trust review before work can begin. The report quoted Michigan state officials as saying that 90 percent of the homes to be weatherized must go through that review process, but the state only has two employees in its historic preservation office.
But the pace of weatherization is starting to pick up because the Davis-Bacon issues have now “largely been resolved,” according to the Department of Energy.
“The states received wage determinations for every county in the U.S. before Labor Day and worked through the process of updating their systems and their wage rates throughout the fall,” the Department of Energy said in a written statement.
“The agency is on a path to reach its target of weatherizing 20,000-30,000 homes a month.”
So far $522 million has been spent on the program, meaning that American taxpayers have spent between $24,857 and $56,372 for each caulk job.
UPDATE: A reader points to this Texas Watchdog report on Cash for Caulkers spending in Texas, where 47 homes have so far been weatherized at a cost of $3.7 million, or $78,000 per house. Nor is it a case of $500 hammers. The cost-per-household for materials and labor works out to just about $4,255. The rest of the money went toward growing the government housing bureaucracy.