Why Are Monitoring and Accountability Needed in Weatherization?
DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) has the following mission: “To reduce energy costs for low-income families, particularly for the elderly, people with disabilities, and children, by improving the energy efficiency of their homes while ensuring their health and safety.”
On the surface, this concept seems to be straightforward. However, those charged with the oversight and implementation of WAP know that delivering this program successfully is anything but simple.
WAP is a federally funded program. Let’s note that again—WAP is a federally funded program. Why does that matter? It matters because it places more accountability upon those involved in the oversight and implementation of the program. The public is always concerned with how the federal dollars placed in the hands of Congress are used, and at a time when the federal budget is under intense scrutiny, it is more important than ever to ensure that federal funds are used responsibly.
One way of defining accountability is in terms of stewardship. Congress appropriates funds for WAP to DOE. DOE allocates funding allocates those funds to WAP Grantees to implement the program at the state level (see Figure 1). The Grantees issue funding to WAP subgrantees so that the energy efficiency measures can be installed in the home. Each one of these entities plays a crucial role in WAP’s mission—to reduce energy costs for low-income families. As a steward of these funds, each entity is responsible for ensuring that the available resources are used properly to meet WAP’s objectives. Unlike many federal programs, WAP places technicians directly into client homes. Entering the private space of thousands of families each year poses inherent risk and the potential for liability. Furthermore, WAP works with some of the most challenging housing stock in our nation, where serious occupant health and safety risks abound. WAP clients are by definition low-income and face the incredible obstacles associated with living at or near the poverty line. Therefore, it is even more critical that WAP workers be accountable for performing high-quality work in these clients’ homes.
Monitoring and Training: An Ongoing Process
How, then, is accountability ensured? WAP has a monitoring system that is unrivaled by any other federal program (see Figure 2). I spent several years as a state monitor for WAP, so I have an up close and personal view of how monitoring and accountability work hand in hand. Accountability cannot be assumed, it must be verified. The purpose of the monitoring process is to ensure accountability by verifying that federal funds are used properly, and that high-quality work is performed.
For WAP, monitoring is much more than simply checking a box. One hundred percent of the units that receive WAP services are inspected by a Certified Quality Control Inspector. In turn, the state monitors 5% of the units weatherized by each local subgrantee, adding another layer of accountability. In addition, each year DOE monitors a select group of the state Grantees based on an extensive risk assessment tool. In other words, there is a multifaceted process in place for the express purpose of ensuring accountability, as described above.
See more on NASCSP and its support of the Weatherization Program.
Furthermore, WAP professionals are highly trained and highly skilled. They are also dedicated and caring people who seek to do the best job they can possibly do. The monitoring process described above is used to enhance the training and technical assistance that states and DOE provide to these technicians. The monitoring results are used to build training plans, which ensures that the weatherization network grows stronger and continuously improves in the delivery of WAP services. Monitoring and training are part of an ongoing process that promotes accountability in the program at all levels.
WAP has been around since 1976; it celebrated its 40th birthday two years ago. WAP has met many challenges over time—from administrations that do not believe in the program’s mission to the incredible production demands of the Recovery Act period. The program has survived and flourished thanks largely to its strong monitoring and accountably practices. These practices will ensure that WAP continues to serve hardworking American families for the next 40 years.
Ray Judy is the Weatherization Training Center Director at the Bureau of Community Action and Economic Opportunity, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
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