Today I am writing the first of my monthly updates on the progress of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 which Joe Biden has dubbed the Recovery Act.
Once a month, I will be providing highlights and summaries from information gleaned from the www.recovery.gov website. The Recovery Act is a very large and complex piece of legislation. It's a lot to consume, but the Obama Adminisrtation has made all the data available for public review as promised. I'll look through the data and fact-check it so that you don't have to!
First, some housekeeping:
- This summary will focus on three items: Where money is spent, What it it being spent on, and How is it being spent, specifically how quickly.
- This summary will highlight infrastructure and technology projects of interest to me. If you wish to suggest others, note them in the comments and I'll report on them in future diaries.
- My goal is to encourage drilling down and finding a project going on in your state. If Kossacks will then go to their own home state Recovery Act sites, you can then report on whats going on by putting some eyes on the scene. This is how we hold our government accountable folks.
- Please feel free to offer suggestions or constructive criticisms.
The Recovery Act passed exactly two months ago yesterday. Already we can see that your government is, finally, doing something. However, this being government, even rapid speed seems glacial. So far, $60,390,870,000 has been approved for distribution and $12,854,655,000 has been paid out. Of this, $12,219,953,000 has been distributed as public assistance to state governments.
* $12,219,953,000 - Medicare and Medicaid State Block Grants
* $ 308,097,000 - Food Stamp and WIC State Block Grants
* $ 205,523,000 - Public Housing Capital Funds & Assistance
One of the ladies from my church who is out of work at the moment informed me that she received a letter from the City of New York recently. That letter informed her that due to "a change in federal law" she would be receiving $89 per month in additional food stamp funds.
Additionally, the Recovery Act cut taxes on middle class families effective April 1st. I'm a business owner. Two weeks ago I received from the IRS information on adjustments I was to make immediately in my witholding schedule. In Quickbooks, this did result in lower witholdings. On the front of the IRS notice was that these changes were being made as a result of the Recovery Act. One of my boys who works as a mover has confirmed to me that he received an additional $28 in his paycheck yesterday. That will take care of his MetroCard for the week...a big load off his shoulder.
So far, very little of the of the Recovery Act money has been spent on building new things or new industries. Most of the money paid out so far has been to help states with their social services budgetary woes. However, there have been some highway funds allocated.
For example, I'll begin with Maryland, since that was the subject of the President's most recent announcement. You heard the president speak of road projects that are now underway. The workers from Maryland were behind him. He touted these projects as being "ahead of schedule and under budget:
Speaking at the Transportation Department surrounded by construction workers from a highway project in Maryland, Obama sought to make the most of news that at least one small, but important, corner of his stimulus program is starting to generate positive results.
He said his administration has approved 2,000 highway projects nationwide since the stimulus fund took effect.
Technically, this is true. Just under 2000 projects have been approved as far I can see. But no money has actually been paid out so far, so we do not know if they will actually come in under budget. We simply know the bids are low. Thats why its up to us to go to these work sites and make sure nobody is slouching on the job.
•As of April 10th, FHWA authorized 1,860 projects in 45 states and territories totaling $5.88 billion in obligations.
I decided to visit the Maryland Recovery Act site, which provided some very nifty tools! The vast majority of the funds are being spent on asphalt and guardrails. Not exactly sexy WPA type stuff, but still important. The good news? In this example which covers highway funds allocated to Maryland 9,336 jobs will be created.
If you dig in deep, it says State Rte. 4 is being resurfaced. A phonecall to a friend in the area confirmed that this is indeed happening. She has seen the workers on the road and they are indeed in the early stages resurfacing. The site has the cost and state contract number (about $4.5 million). If you want to know who has been awarded the contract and if they are paying union wages, it is easy to discover. I asked her to take some pictures with the guys when she can and to take them some sandwiches. It will serve as a warning that the public is watching and we will be reporting any bad acting to Vice President Biden's office.
While there are plenty of things in the early planning stages, there are no hot new projects to report so far. I want to stick to things that are actually being done. I hope to have a great deal more to report in the future. I hope you will as well. As citizens of this great country, our President has called on us to hold our government accountable for how it uses our money. He has given us the tools to do that very thing. The rest is up to us.