TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono today announced that the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee, which she chairs, will hold a December 13 hearing into the issues surrounding the state’s federally funded weatherization program.
Earlier this month, a second report issued within the past year by State Auditor Stephen Eells noted that the state program continues to suffer from lax oversight. The program is funded through $119 million in federal stimulus money and is intended to help 13,381 low and moderate-income families winterize their homes, creating construction jobs and allowing homeowners to glean savings by making their houses more energy efficient.
“The auditor’s findings point to a lack of oversight that has allowed a promising program to languish and become nearly incapable of meeting its core mission,” said Buono (D-Middlesex). “Especially now that winter is settling in, the weatherization program should be in full force to help homeowners. Instead, officials are attempting to fix systemic problems that have undermined the state’s ability to provide assistance to those in need.”
Buono said that while she is pleased with Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Lori Grifa’s swift response to correct the problems uncovered in the audits, lawmakers should hear directly on her office’s progress on implementing the state auditor’s recommendations.
She also noted that fixing the weatherization program should create more new jobs. So far, 225 people have gone through job training to work in the weatherization program, but because the problems in the program have slowed energy audits to a snail’s pace, only seven are currently working. The program’s goal is to train roughly 600 people.
“The Department of Labor has also suspended the training program, which in this economic climate is staggering,” said Buono.
“Helping people save money on their energy bills is only half of the weatherization program’s promise,” said Buono. “This is a program that can create good jobs. We can’t get this program running to its full potential soon enough.”