Lara Convenes Hearing to Address Possible Loss of Billions in Federal Stimulus Dollars

August 29, 2011

Joint Legislative Audit Committee convenes oversight hearing of unspent money

SACRAMENTO – The Joint Legislative Audit Committee, chaired by Assemblymember Ricardo Lara, held an oversight hearing today to review the state's progress in spending federal stimulus funds. The hearing focused on State Auditor Elaine Howle’s recent report which highlighted the nearly $8 billion dollars currently at risk of being returned to the federal government if the state does not spend the funds by approaching deadlines.

According to report findings, the Department of Community Services and Development, the California Energy Commission and the Department of Education were among the departments with the largest unspent awards. Among the programs and activities eligible for these funds include home weatherizing, energy efficient appliance upgrading and to improve education technology at schools. Combined, these agencies could stand to lose $645 million in unspent stimulus dollars.

"We have a great opportunity to help our cities and counties grow jobs and stimulate the economy. At times when we are faced with unprecedented unemployment and families are struggling to feed their children, we cannot afford to waste one dollar or leave any on the table" said Lara.

The Energy Commission alone received $226 million for the State Energy Program – targeted at increasing energy efficiency. Yet, the State Auditor found that the Commission has only spent 19% of this amount and only has eight months left to utilize the entire amount. In response to this delay, Assemblymember Lara has asked the Commission along with other agencies to report back to the Committee in four months to determine progress made and if a federal extension is needed.

In February 2009 the federal government passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and gave billions to California to stimulate the economy. The deadlines to spend all of the state’s remaining stimulus dollars range from September 30, 2011 to September 30, 2013. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee will continue to follow this money and ensure that the state is taking every step necessary to ensure that our communities reap the benefits intended by the Recovery Act.