United States Government Accountability Office
Progress and Challenges in Spending WeatherizationFunds
Why GAO Did This Study
The American Recovery andReinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) provided $5 billion to theDepartment of Energy’s (DOE)Weatherization Assistance Program tohelp low-income families by makinglong-term energy efficiencyimprovements to their homes. TheRecovery Act requires GAO to conductbimonthly reviews of how recipientssuch as state-level agencies use theact’s funds. As part of this review, GAOexamined if the act is achieving itsstated purposes. The act also requiresGAO to comment and report quarterlyon estimates of jobs funded andcounted as full-time equivalents (FTE),as reported by recipients of Recovery Act funds. GAO examined (1) thestatus and use of weatherization grantprogram funds under the Recovery Act; (2) the challenges, if any, thatrecipients faced in implementing theweatherization program under theRecovery Act; (3) the extent to whichthe weatherization program under theRecovery Act has achieved its energyand cost savings goals; and (4) thechanges, if any, over time in the qualityof FTE data reported by Recovery Actrecipients, particularly by programrecipients. GAO surveyed the 58 state-level grant recipients of the act’sweatherization funds, reviewed DOEand recipient-reported data, andinterviewed state and local agencyofficials.GAO makes no new recommendationsin this report but provides the status of prior recommendations that remainopen and not implemented from GAO’sRecovery Act–mandated reports. DOEgenerally concurred with GAO’sfindings and provided clarifications,which were incorporated asappropriate.
What GAO Found
As of September 2011, the 58 state-level grant recipients were awardedapproximately $4.75 billion from DOE to implement the Weatherization Assistance Program under the Recovery Act and reported spending about $3.46billion (about 73 percent). DOE expects to meet or exceed its production target of 607,000 homes and spend most of the act’s funds because some recipients havebeen able to exceed their production targets because of a lower average cost of weatherizing homes and lower training and technical assistance expenses thananticipated. In response to GAO’s prior recommendation that DOE clarifyproduction targets and funding deadlines, among other things, DOE officialsprovided documentation showing actions taken concerning targets but failed toprovide clarification of the consequences for not meeting the targets.Most recipients reported experiencing more implementation challenges in the firstyear of the Recovery Act than in the third year. Initial challenges includedimplementing new wage and reporting requirements and balancing training andtechnical assistance requirements with production targets. In the absence of aspending deadline for the weatherization grant program, DOE established adeadline of March 31, 2012, for recipients to complete spending Recovery Actweatherization funds. Recipients reported concerns with completing finalRecovery Act requirements by DOE’s deadline, and continuing to supportweatherization efforts after the deadline. Officials from state and local agenciesreported seeking alternative sources of funding to mitigate the loss of federalfunds. DOE weatherization officials said they requested a 2-year extension fromthe Secretary of Energy to allow some recipients, on a case-by-case basis, tospend any remaining Recovery Act funds after March 2012. However as of November 2011, it had not been determined if an extension would be availablefor recipients. In the interim, the Office of Management and Budget released aSeptember 2011 memorandum stating that Recovery Act funds should be spentby September 2013. A long-term Weatherization Assistance Program goal is to increase energyefficiency through cost-effective weatherization work. March 2010 estimates froman Oak Ridge National Laboratory study project that energy savings will likelyexceed the program’s costs, so that every $1 spent on the weatherizationprogram for 2009 through 2011 would result in almost $2 in energy savings over the useful life of the investment; the laboratory plans to issue more definitiveestimates in 2013. In response to GAO’s prior recommendation that DOE revisitmethodologies used to determine the most cost-effective work, DOE officialsstated that the results of this 2013 study will be used to strengthen currentprotocols for determining the most cost-effective weatherization work. According to GAO’s analysis, the quality of FTE data reported by recipients toFederalReporting.gov has improved over time. DOE performs quality assurancesteps on the data that recipients provide to FederalReporting.gov, and DOEofficials reported that data quality continues to improve. According toRecovery.gov, the Recovery Act funded approximately 14,090 FTEs for thequarter ending September 30, 2011. FTEs are declining since the quarter endingDecember 2010 as weatherization work is completed.
View GAO-12-195.For more information,
contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.