State holding millions in unspent stimulus money

FRESNO, Calif.

Part of California's federal stimulus money was supposed to help the state's energy sector by boosting renewable energy and weatherizing the homes of low income families.

By increasing demand, lots of jobs would be created.

But two-and-a-half years later, Robert Oglesby of the California Energy Commission says "There is still a large unexpended state energy program balance. About 64% of the funds remain in our account."

It was a stunning revelation at a Capitol hearing. About $131 million has not been spent on improving energy efficiency; another $21 million is languishing for weatherization.

And if it's not spent by next spring, the feds want the money back.

"For state departments and agencies to not have spent the money or have a plan to spend the money quickly by today is absolutely unacceptable and is offensive to the 12% of Californians that are still unemployed," St. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles) said.

California's jobless rate has been among the highest in the country and stubbornly remains in double digit territory.

The Energy Commission blames bureaucracy for the hold up in job creation help.

The California Department of Education let about a million dollars in stimulus money lapse last year for the Child Nutrition Program. It would be frustrating for job seekers to see the same happen to the energy funds.

"I really have to find me a job right now. That makes me angry they're sitting on this money," job seeker Donna White said.

In previous reports on other departments, the State Auditor said the risk of spending so much money so fasts could result in the federal funds being used improperly or illegally.

For now, however. if the money does get spent, there could a small hiring boom in the next few weeks.

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