Tracking The Stimulus

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Tracking The Stimulus

  1. 1. Tracking the Stimulus Eileen Norcross Sr. Research Fellow State and Local Policy Project The Mercatus Center at George Mason University July 23, 2009
  2. 2. Why is it hard to track federal money? <ul><li>What kinds of data do government agencies collect and why? </li></ul><ul><li>Compliance </li></ul><ul><li>Performance Measurement </li></ul><ul><li>Communicating with Citizens? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Oversight déjà vu? <ul><li>The Stimulus is unique because of its size </li></ul><ul><li>and its intents </li></ul><ul><li>Majority of programs (73 of 109 funded) in </li></ul><ul><li>place years, or decades. </li></ul>
  4. 4. How do we know what programs buy? <ul><li>Agencies do collect data on programs </li></ul><ul><li>Programs are monitored by agencies, GAO, IGs </li></ul><ul><li>Range of detail, quality, timeliness, meaningfulness </li></ul>
  5. 5. Details and Consistency <ul><li>Not required of agencies until the Federal Funding </li></ul><ul><li>Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 </li></ul>
  6. 6. The Community Development Block Grant <ul><li>“ What does the federal government buy with CDBG dollars?” </li></ul><ul><li>72 possible activities </li></ul><ul><li>Hundreds of cities </li></ul><ul><li>Thousands of sub-grantees </li></ul><ul><li>Impossible to get a national picture? </li></ul>
  7. 7. Starting with HUD $343,060,052.01 Subtotal for: Economic Development     $29,144,861.15 Micro-Enterprise Assistance ED 18C $41,074,274.30 ED Direct: Technical Assistance ED 18B $152,856,479.58 ED Direct: Financial Assistance to For-Profit Businesses ED 18A $11,712,949.15 Other Commercial/Industrial Improvements ED 17D $15,747,891.58 Commercial/Industrial Building Acquisition, Construction, Rehabilitation ED 17C $50,858,564.42 Commercial/Industrial Infrastructure Development ED 17B $10,842,712.40 Commercial/Industrial Land Acquisition/Disposition ED 17A $30,822,319.43 Rehabilitation: Publicly or Privately Owned Commercial/Industrial ED 14E
  8. 8. Approach from the state/city level <ul><li>PDFs for individual cities </li></ul><ul><li>Jersey City, N.J. </li></ul><ul><li>$1.76 million on housing rehab in 2008 </li></ul>
  9. 9. Finding Out <ul><li>Where, What, Who? Try the City’s CAPER report </li></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. “$5000 to YMCA for building repairs” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Need to read thousands of CAPERs or PDFs of CAPERs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If you dig, you’ll find. But, it’s impossible to get trends, relationships, perspectives </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Meant to fill the void: Basic, meaningful details on individual transactions for all contracts, grants, and assistance programs in a searchable, structured, open format.
  11. 11. Where do CDBG dollars go? <ul><li>Grant data is available, searchable, downloadable structured formats </li></ul><ul><li>Bergen City, N.J. $10.4 million CDBG in 2008 </li></ul><ul><li>But, details are slow to appear. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Details are Required by Law <ul><li>USASpending.gov is working on subgrant data </li></ul>
  13. 13. Why so slow? <ul><li>Moving from old to new reporting structures between state, local and federal. </li></ul><ul><li>Each agency has its own data reporting practices, systems, relationships with grantees </li></ul><ul><li>Data collection is not ‘real-time’ but driven by compliance reports. </li></ul>
  14. 14. CDBG and the Mayors <ul><li>Yet, the Mayors know what CDBG buys. </li></ul><ul><li>The Federal Government and individual citizens, don’t always. </li></ul><ul><li>USCM provided transaction-level, meaningful, straightforward details for the nation, in a timely – anticipatory – fashion. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Stimulus Genesis <ul><li>Governors and Mayors ask for bailout in September/October 2008 </li></ul><ul><li>Congress asks how money should be spent </li></ul><ul><li>Shovel Ready The US Conference of Mayors Report “Ready-to-go” in October 2008 </li></ul>
  16. 16. When states and cities accept federal funds <ul><li>Transparency is required where public dollars change hands. </li></ul><ul><li>Accountability rests with those who disburse it. </li></ul><ul><li>The most meaningful data is where the money is spent. </li></ul><ul><li>USASpending.gov is progress in the right direction </li></ul>
  17. 17. The Mayor’s Report: The Right Idea <ul><li>Transaction-level, meaningful, basic details </li></ul><ul><li>Online </li></ul><ul><li>Citizens can evaluate it </li></ul><ul><li>It hasn’t been updated since </li></ul>
  18. 18. What Can Congress Do? <ul><li>A full “household” accounting of public spending is owed to the people. </li></ul><ul><li>Citizens are best placed to evaluate spending where dollars “hit the ground.” Knowledge is dispersed. </li></ul><ul><li>Principles for collecting and disseminating spending data. </li></ul><ul><li>Old-time hierarchical reporting vs. cyberspace and crowdsourcing </li></ul>
  19. 19. Closing Thoughts <ul><li>Stimulus shines a light on the state of fiscal federalism </li></ul><ul><li>40+ years of grants-in-aid to states…why the continuing mysteries? </li></ul><ul><li>Is Transparency a Double-Edged Sword? </li></ul><ul><li>GAO – decades documenting dysfunctions </li></ul><ul><li>“ No Pilot” budgeting? </li></ul>

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