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Some states get share of stimulus faster – USATODAY.com

Some states get share of stimulus faster – USATODAY.com.

WASHINGTON — Stimulus money is flowing far more slowly to some states than others, a USA TODAY analysis shows, despite the Obama administration’s push to speed up spending to help jump start the nation’s economy.

Nearly six months after President Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus bill, some states, such as California, have collected more than half of the money that’s been promised to them so far. Ten others, such as Alaska, New Hampshire and Wyoming, have been paid less than a quarter, the review of federal spending reports shows.


TRACKING THE STIMULUS: Where funds have gone so far


How quickly states draw on their stimulus funds depends largely on state actions and needs, said Ed DeSeve, Obama’s senior adviser on the stimulus. The administration has pushed states to spend some of that aid more quickly.

“Just as we push ourselves to get the money to the states quickly, we are urging the states to push the funds out quickly,” says Education Department spokeswoman Sandra Abrevaya.

Obama said two months ago he was “not satisfied” with the pace of spending and vowed to accelerate it. Since then, the Education Department has made $2.7 billion available months sooner than planned.

The money has flowed fastest to distressed states like California and Michigan, which have moved swiftly to claim their share of the federal aid. But those states have to plan carefully to avoid even more severe problems when the stimulus money runs out, says Nicholas Johnson of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think-tank.

Officials in states such as Illinois and Massachusetts that have gotten aid more quickly say they’re preparing for the end of their stimulus aid by raising taxes and cutting expenses. “You always have to balance being quick with being responsible,” says Kristi Lafleur, a deputy chief of staff to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois.

In other states where the money has flowed more slowly, such as Texas and West Virginia, officials say they do not need the money as urgently because their economic outlook is not as dire.

Some complain federal rules have caused delays. “It often seems more like red tape than recovery,” says Todd Stacy, a spokesman for Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican. DeSeve said “there are no special regulations” slowing the spending.

Other examples of how states are handling stimulus aid:

• West Virginia, which got about 24% of its stimulus share, didn’t need the money as quickly because “the recession hit West Virginia later,” says Matt Turner, a spokesman for Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat.

• In Alaska, battles that erupted after then-governor Sarah Palin proposed rejecting a third of the money have slowed the pace of aid, says Jack Kreinheder, a state budget official. He says the lag “is not causing us any kind of severe problems.”

The stimulus includes $499 billion in new federal spending. Much of that goes to state governments; how much each state ultimately gets varies depending on a slew of federal funding formulas covering everything from roads to schools.

In the nearly six months since Obama signed the plan, the government has allocated about $200 billion in aid, but it has paid out only about $76 billion.

Where stimulus funds have gone so far

The $787 billion economic stimulus bill signed into law by President Obama nearly six months ago contained $288 billion in tax cuts and $499 billion in new spending. So far, the administration has spent $76.3 billion — 15% of the total available. USA TODAY reporters Brad Heath and Matt Kelley look at where the money has gone so far and the impact it is having. Financial data reflect allocations and spending through July 31 or Aug. 5.

  Defense Education Environment Energy Jobs
Total funding $7.1 billion $98.2 billion $13.2 billion $33 billion Not applicable
Amount available $1.7 billion $55.1 billion $10 billion $5 billion Not applicable
Amount paid out $50.5 million $12.4 billion $214.8 million $120.7 million Not applicable
Status Most of the money paid out so far is for construction projects such as building or renovating military base facilities or housing for servicemembers. The Air Force has spent $31.2 million on such projects so far. The Defense Department says that of the more than 1,500 contracts awarded, 78% went to small businesses. Those small-business contracts accounted for 59% of the dollars awarded. About $9.4 billion of the total spent so far is from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, a $48.6 billion program to avoid or mitigate cuts to education and improve their school systems. States also may use some of the money for services such as law enforcement. The department has made about $34.3 billion of this money available to states, but most of it hasn’t been spent yet. Programs to speed cleanup of Energy Department nuclear weapons and research facilities accounts for $168.7 million of the spending so far. Funding has begun to trickle down to states for drinking water and wastewater projects, with $36.8 million of the $6 billion program sent to the states. EPA has spent $4.5 million of the $600 million for Superfund toxic waste site cleanup. About $63.4 million — or more than half of the money spent on energy projects so far — has gone to energy efficiency programs such as weatherization, which provides funds to make low-income households more energy efficient. The Energy Department has spent $22.3 million at its national laboratories. The Pentagon has spent about $7.4 million of its $300 million for energy research. President Obama said June 8 the stimulus had created or saved 150,000 jobs and would create or save another 600,000 jobs by Sept. 16. His Council of Economic Advisers projects 1.5 million jobs will be saved or created by year’s end. The U.S. lost nearly 2.2 million jobs from February through July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says. It’s nearly impossible to tell if any specific jobs would or would not exist.
What’s next The Pentagon plans to have $1.9 billion in construction projects underway by Aug. 31 and 225 finished by Labor Day. It is the department’s first major deadline. States may apply this fall for $4.35 billion in competitive education grants designed to spark innovative programs under a program called “Race to the Top.” EPA plans to allocate all of the money for water projects by Oct. 31. The projects must be under contract by Feb. 17 or EPA will rescind funding. Applications from businesses for $8.5 billion worth of loan guarantees for energy efficiency projects such as wind power technologies are due this month. The CEA reports on the employment effects of the stimulus Friday. The Labor Department plans to have 125,000 youths in summer jobs programs by Aug. 31.
  Housing Public lands Transportation Research Safety net
Total amount $13.6 billion $4.1 billion $48.1 billion $13.4 billion $139.1 billion{+-}{+1}
Amount available $7.7 billion $494.7 million $24.1 billion $2.5 billion $72.5 billion
Amount paid out $1.2 billion $45.8 million $1.5 billion $38.8 million $57.3 billion
Status Most of the money allocated so far has been grants to state and local governments. That includes $3 billion to public housing authorities to repair low-income housing, and $2.25 billion to state housing agencies to help pay for construction of new units. The U.S. Forest Service has announced about $936 million for work ranging from clearing brush to repairing roads and building facilities. The National Park Service has put teens to work repairing trails, and is reviewing major construction projects. Most of the money allocated so far has been for road and bridge projects, totaling more than $17 billion for about 6,000 projects. An additional $1.1 billion for Amtrak and nearly $1 billion for 359 airport improvement projects has been approved or allocated. The National Science Foundation has allocated more than $1 billion for 2,000 research projects, including almost $200 million to build a ship to help scientists study Alaska. The National Institutes of Health has approved nearly 5,000 other projects. Safety net money — for food stamps, unemployment benefits and Medicaid — accounts for the majority of spending, mostly paid to states. The stimulus increased food aid monthly by about $80 for a family of four, and increased unemployment benefits.
What’s next HUD plans to award $1 billion in additional grants to housing authorities, and $2 billion to help communities hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis. The National Park Service plans to have projects started soon at 107 national parks; many will focus on repairing worn-out roads. States are applying for more than $8 billion for high-speed rail projects. More than 1,500 highway projects also will be underway by the end of the month. By Sept. 30, the National Science Foundation hopes to give out 4,000 research grants, and NIH plans to issue $200 million for studies to overcome “scientific challenges.” Safety net spending could continue for years; food stamp money will be spent over the next five years. Medicaid assistance continues through 2010.

1 — Estimate; spending can change based on needs