Nevada's stimulus-funded weatherization programs are living down to expectations of inefficiency and incompetence. What a surprise.
Of all the debt-growing, make-work boondoggles crafted by Congress this year, the "green jobs" grants set aside to make low-income homes more energy-efficient left elected Democrats especially excited: "We're handing out welfare, creating jobs and saving the planet!"
The state got $18.6 million in weatherization funds, with the condition that all the money be spent by June 30. About 1,850 homes with incomes at or below 200 percent of the poverty level were supposed to get new insulation, new caulking and the minor repairs needed to make a dent in their utility bills.
Do the math. That's $10,000 per house in labor, materials and administrative costs. All to save a handful of Nevadans $500 per year in energy costs? A 20-year return on investment (not including interest) is a lousy deal for taxpayers.
But hey, if nearly 2,000 households have an extra $40 or $50 to spend around town each month, and the workers who weatherize homes are collecting a paycheck they otherwise wouldn't have, at least that's helpful to the economy, right?
Only those households aren't realizing much savings, and those workers aren't doing much work. As of last month, only 100 homes had been upgraded, and only $607,000 in grants had been spent.
In Nevada and other states, union politics and bureaucracy have held things up. Government couldn't just contact existing contractors. No, it had to establish new training programs. The Legislature voted to require that all weatherization jobs be performed by people who've completed stimulus-funded courses. By summer, the labor market will be flooded with newly trained "green" workers, just in time for grants to expire -- and their promised jobs to disappear.
"Our understanding is our contractors feel they have enough employees in place to do the work," said Doug Kuntz, who supervises Henderson Neighborhood Services' weatherization program.
If this work were economically viable -- if it made financial sense for homeowners and businesses, if there was enough demand for the service to create competition among contractors, if workers' skills were valuable enough that they could expect to remain employed for years to come -- it would have taken root years ago, without the intervention of politicians. This is a feel-good, vote-buying sham.
Nevada can't escape this waste of resources soon enough.