Weatherization–a slow start for Texas may not be all bad news

The Dallas Morning News ran a story Sunday (here) regarding Texas’s slow start to the Weatherization Assistance Program.  The story highlighted the fact that as of last month, the program had completed just a handful homes using Recovery Act funds. Austin’s KUT picked up the story this morning (here).

Is this good news?  No, we’d want the funds put to use as quickly as possible.  But compare that article about Texas with a New York Times article the same day about the Weatherization Assistance Program in Illinois:  That article highlight failures in oversight that led to dangerous conditions in a weatherized home.

TDHCA implies that one reason for the delay is the time required to set up the oversight needed for the program.  Given the recent Energy Department Inspector General report regarding the need for such oversight, we think it’s worth waiting to do it right.

As this program comes up to speed, we will be continuing to focus on the three issues we highlighted in our initial review of this program:

  • Is the program helping those who need it most? The income eligibility threshold for the program increased from 150% of the poverty level to 200%.  Lower-income residents may require more outreach by the local agencies, and agencies may have incentive to skim the top of the eligible population.  TDHCA should make sure that local agencies are both prioritizing and providing active outreach to families at or below the poverty level to make certain such families are benefiting from the program.
  • Does program training providing workers sustainable skills? The recovery act increased the funding available for training and technical assistance from 10% of the program funds to 20%.  This is an opportunity for a strong job-training component of the program that can provide skills to workers that will outlast the temporary WAP funding.  TDHCA should maximize the workforce development impact of this funding.
  • Does the program actively enforce a high level of quality control? Weatherization is more than just caulking the holes in a house, and if done poorly can adversely affect air-quality.  Weatherized homes should be inspected to ensure that the repairs created or maintained a healthful indoor environment in the home.

Recovery.gov will be releasing progress data on Jan 29th regarding recipients served by this program.  By then, we hope that more homes will be done and data will begin to be available to show it was worth the wait.

Stay Tuned.

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