California lawmaker questions state's unspent stimulus funds

The Sacramento BeeAugust 2, 2011 

With deadlines approaching to spend more than $250 million in federal stimulus funds, some California officials fear much of the money might never reach Main Street California.

If the money isn't spent by early next spring, the federal government could demand a refund.

"All of Congress, but especially our Republican counterparts, are looking to cut," Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, said Monday. "We in California shouldn't be in the business of giving them low-hanging fruit to cut or sweep back."

Padilla held the fourth in a series of hearings to grill agencies about what's taking so long for local governments and private contractors to undertake projects.

"Here we are nearly at the eleventh hour with millions of dollars at risk and thousands of jobs at risk," Padilla said. "They are being held up by bureaucracy. This is a prime example of why the public is … frustrated with government."

The state Department of Community Services and Development received $186 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to weatherize homes, primarily of low-income families, by replacing windows and installing insulation, among other methods.

But state Auditor Elaine Howle put it bluntly at Monday's hearing: "Homes are not being weatherized and money is not being expended."

For example, the city of Oakland had not weatherized any homes by April 30 despite a $1.9 million grant.

The California Energy Commission received $226 million to fund retrofits of middle-income residential, commercial and government properties.

"There's a lot of money that hasn't gone out of the door, and it needs to go out the door," said Robert Oglesby, who recently became executive director of the commission.

Of $31 million set aside to finance clean-energy businesses, nearly nothing had been spent by June 1.

To read the complete article, visit www.sacbee.com.

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