Earl Devaney ()
The federal government has allocated more than a third of the $787 billion in economic stimulus funds, and stimulus programs created roughly 600,000 jobs in the quarter that ended Dec. 31, according to new data posted on Recovery.gov, the stimulus oversight Web site.
The spending includes roughly $199 billion in contracts, grants and loans, and about $93 billion in tax cuts. Most of the spending came in the form of grants — and nearly half of those came from the Education Department, which has awarded roughly $71.5 billion so far.
Contracts made up a much smaller share of the spending — about $30 billion. But the number of contracts awarded is increasing: Agencies issued more than 20,000 of them during the recently ended quarter, up from 13,000 during the previous three months.
Recipients say most of the money awarded has not been disbursed yet: Recipients say they've received $57.8 billion, or roughly 29 percent of the total amount awarded. More than 161,000 recipients — state and local governments and private companies — filed spending reports last quarter with the Recovery Accountability and Transparency (RAT) Board, which oversees the stimulus bill.
"Since this is a partial survey based on reports filed by recipients, we know it's not perfect or complete, but it is providing a level of detail about a government program that has never before been made available to the public," Vice President Joe Biden said after the data was released.
The state-by-state allocation of funds generally tracked with population size, according to Recovery.gov. California received the largest amount — $21.6 billion — which created 71,000 jobs; New York's $12.6 billion in spending created 43,000 jobs. New Hampshire recorded the lowest level of job creation: $815 million in spending created just 1,295 jobs.
Critics say the jobs numbers are still imprecise. Craig Jennings, a fiscal policy analyst with the nonprofit OMB Watch, says the data should present the number of hours worked, rather than the number of full-time jobs created, since the definition of full-time job varies from state to state; the data should also try to include qualitative measures, like whether jobs provide benefits, Jennings said.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. — ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and a frequent critic of the stimulus — warned the White House not to "take the new numbers out of context."
One new report, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, concluded the job numbers might be too low: The report found that 84 percent of stimulus spending to date — tax relief, entitlement spending and direct payments to states — is not covered by Recovery.gov reporting.
"There is substantial reason to believe that this 84 percent includes some of the most effective job-creation and job-protection measures," the report said.
The RAT board also recently unveiled several new features on Recovery.gov. The site now includes a search engine that looks for jobs funded through the Recovery Act, and more detailed charts that show how agencies are spending stimulus dollars. Board chairman Earl Devaney said the new features are responses to requests from users.
"For us, a guiding principle has been to listen to what our Web site users at all levels tell us," Devaney said.