California may lose $93 million federal home weatherization grant

California is on the verge of losing $93 million in federal money earmarked for home weatherization grants, according a report released on Tuesday.

The money is contingent on the state Department of Community Services and Development proving it has effectively used $93 million already received for the same purpose. But "as of December 1, 2009, no homes had been weatherized," auditors found, due to delays "both beyond and within its control."

The combined $186 million is California's chunk of $5 billion that Congress approved for low-income residential insulation, heating and cooling upgrades as part of last year's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The state received half of the money last summer with the caveat that it hit certain performance and good-business reporting standards by Sept. 30 of this year. Then the second $93 million will be released.

The Community Services department has run into snags implementing the program. The federal government didn't issue prevailing wage guidelines for weatherization workers until September, crucial to selecting contractors for the work.

And the state has been slow to negotiate with the contractors it has selected, the audit said. As of Dec. 22, only eight of 36 weatherization firms that had been awarded grant money had contracts to do the work.

Increases in the average cost to weatherize a home also could affect the number of qualified low-income residents that Community Services is able to assist, the audit noted.

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