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Audit: State slow to spend weatherization funds

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POSTED February 3, 2012 8:37 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California officials still lag on a federal stimulus program that helps people make energy-efficient upgrades to their homes, and some cities risk having to give back some of the funds because of the delays, according to a new state audit.

The Obama administration directed $185.8 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to California to help families boost their home energy savings, create jobs and move toward energy independence.

Los Angeles has made "significant progress" in insulating homes after initial delays California Auditor Elaine Howle, in a report released Thursday.

But, she cautioned, Oakland and San Francisco may risk having to return some of the weatherization money, in part since their programs were slow to start because they focused on insulating apartments, which take longer to retrofit than single-family homes.

"Oakland and San Francisco continue to struggle with additional challenges in meeting their weatherization goals," the report said.

State officials hope federal officials extend the deadline for spending the funds for an additional nine months to avoid any give-backs, the Contra Costa Times reported (http://bit.ly/zSqizj ).

"California is not going to leave any money on the table," said Rachel Arrezola, spokeswoman for the California Department of Community Services and Development, which administers the program.

At the end of 2011, Oakland had received $4 million in stimulus funds but had weatherized 152 homes, less than one-third of what it had projected for that time. Margaretta Lin, who oversees Oakland's federal stimulus spending, said the program got off to a slow start because the city opted to weatherize apartments.

In San Francisco, officials initially reported they had failed to weatherize a single unit by the end of last year but last month told the department the city had completed 300 units.

Arrezola said both cities are stepping up their work schedule but added that the state can reallocate the money elsewhere if needed.

"They've demonstrated progress," Arrezola said. "We've enhanced our monitoring."

 

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