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DC slow to distribute cash-for-appliances

A popular feature of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act is the rebate program for purchases of energy-efficient appliances. I was particularly excited about the program when my kitchen suffered serious water damage from Snowmageddon this past January.

Photo by Raj Deut on Flickr.

"What a great time to replace our appliances," I said to my wife and son, "since we can get rebates while responsibly buying more efficient appliances!"

I checked the website for the DC Department of the Environment, and learned that the funds would be available this summer. Great! We scheduled the renovation for August.

The summer came. No appliance rebates available yet. August came. No rebates yet. August went.

While all 50 states proceeded to distribute these Stimulus funds in the timely manner intended by Congress, DC residents were still waiting.

DC finally made the funds available on Oct 25, after every state and territory except for Guam. Our kitchen was renovated, looks great, and is more energy efficient, no thanks to the DC Department of the Environment.

But how many people waited for the funds, which were ultimately released 16 months after the recession officially ended? Wasn't that the purpose of the stimulus, and why is was to be "timely, targeted, temporary and transformative," to help us out of a recession? And how many people just stopped waiting for DC and bought less energy efficient appliances?

When asked why it took longer for DC than every state and territory except for Guam to release stimulus money, the Department of the Environment offered this impenetrable explanation:

In determining and implementing a rebate mechanism that we believed, based on prior experience, would effectively serve District residents, it was necessary to have several other District agencies carefully review and approve this unique contract. Consequently, this prolonged our efforts for an earlier start date as each agency required answers to their specific questions.
Apparently DC has more complex interagency relationships than other states, including California (April), New York (February) and Texas (April).

To date, DC has received 138 applications, of which 19 rebates [equivalent to $1,875 combined] have already been approved and 119 applications [an estimated $7,151] are pending verification. For more information, visit

Ken Archer is CTO of a software firm in Tysons Corner. He commutes to Tysons by bus from his home in Georgetown, where he lives with his wife and son. Ken completed a Masters degree in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America. 


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Maybe it meant they didn't know whether that money would be re-routed to close the city's budget gap.

by Fritz on Nov 17, 2010 2:14 pm • linkreport

Why should someone else pay for your appliances?

Just askin'

by Peter on Nov 17, 2010 2:23 pm • linkreport


It's not "paying for" the appliances, it's a rebate to cover a part of the higher cost of energy-efficient appliances in order to fulfill a public policy objective. Regardless of whether you believe the funding should have been available, the program was still made available and should have been run better. Ken, perhaps you can produce a graph showing the inverse relationship of energy efficiency to DC bureaucratic efficiency?

by Adam L on Nov 17, 2010 2:37 pm • linkreport

Well, hell! I didn't even know about this. Looks like I'm buying myself that new energy-efficient washer I've been putting off purchasing!

by Lorin on Nov 17, 2010 2:40 pm • linkreport

Stupid me: I had assumed that DC would have gotten it's act together by now and bought a dishwasher on October 9th. I'm still going to mail this in with a brief, polite note, saying it is not my fault that they couldn't get their act together in time to be in compliance with the law.

by JTS on Nov 17, 2010 3:27 pm • linkreport

Apparently DC has more complex interagency relationships than other states, including California (April), New York (February) and Texas (April).

It could be as simple as there being more illiteracy within the ranks of those who had to do the reviewing ... ;)

by Lance on Nov 17, 2010 3:56 pm • linkreport

Thank you for sharing your story. I did not have any idea about this, either. Sometimes I think it must be so much fun to write up those explanations that are disseminated to the public, thinking up creative ways for "we effed up." You could just about say anything you want.

by Jazzy on Nov 17, 2010 7:18 pm • linkreport

The inefficiency of and poor implementation by DC government is the least surprising part of this program. First, what type of appliance rebate program lets you purchase a highly efficient clothes washer but doesn't pair that with the ability to purchase a highly efficient clothes dryer? Second, where would you suspect a DC rebate program would ask DC residents to mail DC rebates? To Saginaw, Michigan? I would have hoped that DDOE would have at least had enough sense to appear like they were serving DC residents by purchasing a DC PO Box and having mailed rebates go there.

The overall program does seem like a good one though. The biggest and best impact will be if renters convince their landlords to break the vicious cycle of inefficient appliances (where landlords don't pay the bills so don't upgrade appliances and renters don't own to appliances so don't upgrade either) by finally replacing the old refrigerator, clothes washer, and windows and doors that have been haunting apartments since the late 70s.

by ZAP on Nov 17, 2010 11:36 pm • linkreport

The reason the program didn't combine it with a highly efficient clothes dryer is because there isn't one. The US Department of Energy doesn't even rate clothes driers because none of them are very efficient.

by sp on Nov 18, 2010 8:51 am • linkreport

Maybe they wanted to save the best for last? Seriously I did take advantage of the program in CA... took almost 6 months to finally get my rebate check (the check was supposed to be mailed in 6 to 8 weeks) and that was only after having to contact them many times abd resend in information becuase they lost it (they tried to blame it on the post office but I doubt it).
I think the local governments are so strapped for cash that they held onto the money from the Feds so they could earn interest on the money.

by G-man on Nov 23, 2010 1:17 pm • linkreport

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