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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 1, 2014 11:47 AM
From: Senator Rob Teplitz
To: All Senate members
Subject: Legislation - Weatherization Assistance
In the near future, I plan on introducing legislation that will establish energy-efficient and energy-savings performance goals for Commonwealth buildings and will require the Department of Community and Economic Development (“DCED”) to institute policies and procedures that will lessen potential fraud and abuse within the Commonwealth’s Weatherization Assistance Program and make the program more accountable to taxpayers.

DCED administers the Weatherization Assistance Program, a federally funded program enabling low-income families to reduce their energy bills by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes through weatherization improvements. DCED provides weatherization program services to all 67 Commonwealth counties through a network of 42 local governments and nonprofit agencies.

Unfortunately, according to a 2007 Auditor General Report, “DCED’s administration of the weatherization program lacks adequate controls, which increases the risk of potential abuse of weatherization funds. As a result, the most vulnerable and needy Pennsylvanians do not always receive priority and could wait up to nine years to receive weatherization services. Additionally, deficiencies have resulted in ineligible clients receiving services, clients waiting more than a year for services after being approved for the program, no action being taken within 48 hours for crisis clients who faced emergency situations, and 13 individuals who waited between 19 days and five months for crisis resolution.” These issues may or may not have been addressed administratively by DCED, but they need to be addressed as a matter of law in order to ensure that they have been fixed permanently.

The proposed legislation not only incorporates energy savings best practice performance measures from the federal bipartisan Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, but many recommendations from the Auditor General special performance report of the Weatherization Assistance Program. Specifically, under the proposed legislation, DCED in consultation with the Department of General Services will establish performance goals for evaluating Commonwealth agency efforts in improving energy-efficient and energy-savings technologies and will propose recommendations for attaining them. DCED will review Commonwealth building energy standards every 5 years and determine whether Commonwealth building energy standards should be upgraded if technologically feasible and economically justified.

Additionally, the legislation will require DCED to monitor local agencies to ensure that the most at-risk and needy Pennsylvanians receive priority in the provision of weatherization services and will require DCED to periodically reconcile local agency grant payments with reported expenditures to reduce risk of local agencies overcharging DCED and waste, fraud and abuse of weatherization services funds. Also, DCED would have the authority to develop written procedures to require local agencies to provide adequate documentation of whether crisis situations were handled timely, to provide evidence that temporary measures were instituted when delays occurred, to require contractors of local agencies to submit invoices supporting payment requests, and to provide proof that final inspections of weatherized homes were completed.

Senators Stack, Smith, Costa, Fontana, Brewster, Boscola, Farnese, Williams and Browne served as co-sponsors of this legislation when I first introduced this legislation toward the end of last session.

Please join me in promoting cost effective energy efficient and energy savings utilization by Commonwealth agencies and in strengthening the Weatherization Assistance program thereby making weatherization assistance more accountable to the taxpayers. Thank you for your consideration.

Introduced as SB151