State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today released an audit that found New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s (HCR) lax oversight of the Residential Emergency Services to Offer Home Repairs to the Elderly (RESTORE) program contributed to delays in urgent home repairs for seniors. The audit found the agency needs to do more to increase the participation of local providers who help distribute the money as roughly only half of New York’s counties received funding under the program.
“The RESTORE program has been a vital resource for seniors across our state whose homes may be at risk if they can’t make urgent repairs,” DiNapoli said. “Homes and Community Renewal can, and must, do more to meet the emergency needs of New York’s senior citizens and ensure this important program is working and reaching all corners of the state.”
HCR’s Office of Community Renewal (OCR) administers the RESTORE program and selects Local Program Administrators (LPAs) to carry out services on a local level. DiNapoli’s audit found that errors in the agency’s selection of LPAs resulted in many New York counties receiving no service through the program. LPAs (not-for-profit organizations and municipalities) apply to the agency to participate in the RESTORE program and receive state funds to carry out emergency home repairs. Auditors found that the agency’s inaccurate scoring on seven of the 30 LPA applications it reviewed (23 percent) resulted in at least three LPAs being inappropriately awarded funds, while other LPAs were denied funding.
Overall, there were not enough LPAs participating to cover the state. For example, in three funding years reviewed (2017-2019), the agency gave out 49 RESTORE awards for 785 projects to assist seniors needing emergency home repairs. The program’s total funding of $6.13 million went to just 36 LPAs serving only 36 of the 62 counties in the state. DiNapoli’s audit concluded that the agency needed to improve its outreach in order to increase statewide participation and ensure RESTORE program funds were available to elderly residents throughout New York.
DiNapoli’s audit also found cases in which LPAs did not properly administer the RESTORE program. For example, in some instances, the LPA was awarded funds but didn’t carry out emergency repairs in the required time frame.
Other delays in assisting seniors in urgent need of home repairs occurred because the agency was slow in awarding funds to LPAs.
DiNapoli offered several recommendations, including that HCR:
- Develop objective scoring guidelines to promote consistency and transparency in scoring and selecting LPA applications;
- Identify LPAs that have shown they are unable to use awarded RESTORE funds within the contracted period;
- Increase outreach and support to LPAs in counties that have not applied for or did not receive RESTORE program awards; and
- Improve timeliness of awarding RESTORE program funds to LPAs.
HCR generally agreed with the audit’s recommendations and indicated the actions it will take to address them. The agency’s response is included in the audit.
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