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June 28, 2009

How Much Stimulus Money Has Reached Vermont?

As of June 24, Vermont state government had posted actual cash receipts to its coffers of $74,846,608 from the federal government of funds authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA aka the stimulus bill). This does not count stimulus money which does NOT pass through state government such as Pell grants to individuals attending college, grants made by the Small Business Administration to businesses, and tax cuts and credits to individuals and businesses (does not collecting money count as an expenditure?).

To put this in context, over the life of ARRA, generally two years, the state should receive about $720 million in grants which are allocated to us under various formulae in the stimulus bill (and which we get as long as we jump through the right hoops in the right order and account for it properly). We also hope to get $200 million or more in competitive grants under various stimulus programs. Nationwide ARRA is supposed to spend $787 billion.

The bulk of the money state government has actually received has gone to human services - almost $71 million largely for help paying Medicaid benefits. Just under $5 million was received for transportation projects (these are posted monthly so this number is as of the end of May).

More stimulus money has been spent in Vermont than has been received. This doesn't indicate a problem, however; in most cases you have to spend money in federal programs before you are reimbursed for the expenditure. Washington doesn't want us earning interest on "their money".

Which brings up the interesting point of whose money is this anyway. A commenter on Vermont Tiger, where some posts from this blog are reposted, wrote: "Same old tripe repackaged to hide the smell. "We must compete for and win grants" [this quote is from me] translates into OPM [other people's money], for grants are nothing but tax dollars. If it such a good idea, invest your money for a healthy return."

ARRA money is anything but OPM; it's our tax dollars or money that was borrowed in our names or our kid's names. It would be negligent not to bring as much of it as we can use responsibly back to Vermont ; it's even worse if we don't spend this money well. We have to spend it like it's ours because it is.

There is a reasonable argument that this money (and lots of other money) would be better spent if it hadn't made a round trip to Washington, where a fair amount is lost in the handling and from where it comes back in categories we might not have chosen ourselves and with restrictions we would not have placed on ourselves. Our job in the office of Economic Stimulus and Recovery, however, is to deal with ARRA as passed by Congress and assure that it is as constructive for Vermont as it can be. We have a lot more cash yet to come. You can use recovery.vermont.gov to judge whether your money is being used well.

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