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Senator Rice Calls On Community Affairs Commissioner To Appear Before Senate Committee

Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-Essex)

Says Concerns Over Weatherization Program Have to Be Addressed

TRENTON – State Senator Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex, the Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, today requested that Senator Jeff Van Drew, the Chair of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, call on Community Affairs Commissioner Lori Grifa to appear before the Committee to answer questions about the State’s weatherization program.

“It’s long past time that the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs answer policymakers’ questions regarding the State’s Weatherization Assistance Program,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex, and Vice Chair of the Community and Urban Affairs Committee. “We have legitimate concerns that the Department has not shown the progress needed in terms of training and placing workers and helping low- and middle-income families make weatherization and energy efficient home improvements. Despite reaching out to the Department months ago through the Legislative Black Caucus, those concerns and questions still persist.”

Senator Rice noted that the Community, Consumers and Commerce Affairs Subcommittee of the Legislative Black Caucus held a hearing on December 29 regarding issues with the State weatherization program. On January 4, the Caucus sent a letter to Commissioner Grifa seeking answers to a number of questions that were raised during the course of the Subcommittee’s hearing. On April 6, Senator Rice sent a follow-up letter to Commissioner Grifa, reminding her that answers had not yet been provided to the Caucus. To date, Senator Rice has not received a response from the Department, either as a legislator or as the Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus.

“The Commissioner’s continued silence does not make our concerns go away,” said Senator Rice. “As legislators who represent a substantial portion of the population that need the services provided by the State’s weatherization program, we have a legitimate interest in the success of this program. However, I’m disturbed that, after more than three months time, the Commissioner and her staff have been completely unresponsive to our request for information.

“Whether I’m asking as a legislator, as the Chair of a minority caucus, or as a resident of the State of New Jersey, I deserve to know something about the State’s weatherization program,” added Senator Rice. “Not only have we not received answers, but we haven’t even heard whether or not the Department will be providing answers at some point in the future.”

Senator Rice said that he hopes Commissioner Grifa is more responsive when invited to appear before the Community Affairs Committee by Senator Van Drew.

“The Department has a responsibility to answer our questions, whether it’s in the form of a formal public hearing, or a letter to a concerned legislator,” said Senator Rice. “I hope we can get answers to the serious questions about the implementation of the State’s weatherization program sooner rather than later, so we can start putting qualified, trained people to work to help homeowners in need improve their homes.”