TRENTON – State Sen. Ron Rice Sr. (D-28), of Newark, wants answers on over $300,000 in unaccounted federal funds for the state’s weatherization program, which is run by a non-profit organization under the purview of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA).
Rice called on colleague state Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-1), of Cape May, who chairs the Community and Urban Affairs Committee, to summon DCA Commissioner Lori Grifa before the committee to answer questions about the unaccounted-for funding.
“It’s long past time that the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs answer policymakers’ questions regarding the state’s Weatherization Assistance Program,” Rice said in a release.
Van Drew told State Street that he’s onboard with the face-to-face with Grifa, but that his committee has a dozen bills and a budget season-victim UEZ program to deal with at his next two meetings.
“I think he makes a good point…I’m more than happy to do it,” Van Drew said, but it may be tough to “squeeze in” before the summer break.
“I think the commissioner will be more than happy to explain,” he said, noting that he has some questions of his own about how efficiently the program uses its current funding.
Rice said he reached out to DCA months ago with concerns about the weatherization program, but has yet to receive a response.
“We have legitimate concerns that the Department has not shown the progress needed in terms of training and placing workers and helping low- and middle-income families make weatherization and energy efficient home improvements,” Rice said.
On January 4, the Black Legislative Caucus that Rice chairs sent a letter to Grifa looking for answers to questions raised during a Black Caucus subcommittee hearing on the program, with a follow-up letter sent on April 6, neither of which prompted a response, he said.
“The Commissioner’s continued silence does not make our concerns go away,” he said today. “As legislators who represent a substantial portion of the population that need the services provided by the State’s weatherization program, we have a legitimate interest in the success of this program. However, I’m disturbed that, after more than three months time, the Commissioner and her staff have been completely unresponsive to our request for information.”