Another Quinn administration jobs initiative is drawing headlines for wasting taxpayer dollars and failing to provide marketable job training skills.
This time, it’s the Urban Weatherization Initiative, started in 2009 with the intent to train workers in predominantly African-American neighborhoods in weatherization and other energy efficiency trades.
Coming just days after a bipartisan legislative commission took two days of testimony on Governor Pat Quinn’s failed Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, a Chicago-based reform group is highlighting the failures of the massive weatherization training program that was supposed to create skilled workers and provide low-cost services to homeowners across the state.
A Better Government Association (BGA) investigation has found that five years into the program, more than $16 million has been spent, with just 183 homes upgraded and only a handful of persons actually working. The program is also the subject of a Chicago Sun-Times report, and the newspaper editorialized that the program is a “boondoggle.”
That works out to more than $87,000 for each home weatherized. But, that per-home figure is inflated because very little of the money has actually gone into home repairs and upgrades. Instead, $13 million of the $16 million spent went toward administrative costs and training.
The program claims to have trained 1,900 persons, but the state agency charged with overseeing the program says it does not have figures on how many trainees found jobs or are currently working. The BGA investigation found few former trainees who had found permanent work.
One of the finds of the BGA investigation was the training costs have been inflated because the program pays trainees at a rate that, if annualized, can equal more than $100,000 a year. Trainees are paid up to $49 an hour due to the state’s Prevailing Wage Act, nearly two and a half times more than originally predicted.
That’s because the “prevailing wage” rate used is not one for unskilled weatherization trainees, but rather for skilled carpenters. When it was first developed, the program anticipating paying trainees at a still-generous rate of $20 an hour.
Investigators also found that the wife of one of the program’s legislative supporters was hired by Quinn to run the program at a rate of more than $100,000 a year.
The controversy is just the latest to hit the Quinn administration, which has been on the hot seat for its administration of a 2010 anti-violence and job training program – the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.
That initiative has been the subject of a scathing audit earlier this year, two days of testimony from former Quinn administration officials before the bipartisan Legislative Audit Commission and several criminal investigations