Nebraska will be sending nearly $6 million back to Washington, because a state agency failed to use it to help Nebraskans make their homes more energy efficient.
State Auditor Mike Foley says the Department of Health and Human Services failed to use $5.8 million of the $20 million it receives annually from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
The program provides assistance for the poor to modernize their homes by adding insulation, installing new energy-efficient windows, and upgrading furnaces. It also can be used to pay utility bills.
“We didn’t spend all of it and we’re sending about $5.8 million of it back to Washington,” Foley tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “I think that’s ridiculous.”
Foley says DHHS should have spent the money to help the poor struggling to heat their homes in the winter.
“They (DHHS) don’t have a good handle on the flow of expenditures, so when the fiscal year ends the money is there, it could have spent to help a lot of people clean up their old, stale utility bills that weren’t been paid and because they’re not using it that way, you and I who do pay our energy bills are going to have to pick up the slack and pay for those arrearages,” according to Foley. “That’s not fair to those of us who pay their bills on time.”
Foley accuses DHHS of using more money than necessary to run the program, exceeding administrative costs by more than $600,000.
“So now, that will have to be returned to Washington, because we didn’t administer the program efficiently.”
Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this report.