Agency tracks stimulus cash on Web site

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff
Posted Feb. 04, 2010, at 9:37 p.m.

The federal Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board has been charged by Congress with overseeing how federal stimulus funds are used. The board collects information from agencies and recipients participating in the stimulus program and posts it to the board’s Web site, Recovery.gov.

The information is mainly divided into two categories: recipient-reported data and agency-reported data. Agency-reported data is reported by the federal agencies that award the stimulus funds. Recipient-reported data is reported by entities that receive the funds.

The amounts reported in each category do not always match.

According to Edward Pound, director of communications for the board, this is in part because of different reporting requirements for agencies and recipients. Federal agencies that provide stimulus funds file reports with the board “on a fairly regular basis,” or every few weeks, he said.

Entities receiving federal stimulus funds only have to file quarterly reports, Pound said. Recipient-reported data from the fourth quarter of 2009 was posted on the Web site last weekend.

“The recipient reports will never catch up [in terms of totals] to the agency reports,” Pound said.

There have been problems with some of the data reported by recipients, according to Pound. Some have reported spending more in stimulus funds than they received, while others have listed the wrong congressional district for where they are spending the money, he said. This has led to some recipient data not being listed on the Web site, he said, but the board plans to identify and separately list inaccurate and missing recipient reports on the site.

Some recipients have listed totals for awards that are higher than those reported by the awarding agencies. This is because an amount of money that is reported as one grant by a federal agency may end up being divided into smaller amounts, which are later reported back to Recovery.gov as separate grants, according to Pound.

For example, if the U.S. Department of Transportation sends a $30 million grant to Maine DOT and then the state sends portions of that grant to various counties, each of those counties will report their portion as an individual grant, he said.

“Those counties would be counted as subrecipients,” Pound said.

Some loans reported by the Small Business Administration are listed at Recovery.gov in negative dollar amounts. According to Marilyn Geroux of the SBA office in Augusta, those listings reflect loans that were canceled for various reasons. The negative loan amounts listed at Recovery.gov have to be balanced against other positive loans going to the same recipient to determine the accurate loan totals for that business, she said.

As for contracts, the reporting is slightly different, according to Pound. Entities that receive federal contracts have to report those contracts directly back to the federal oversight board. If the state uses federal stimulus grant money to award a contract to another entity — such as a paving contractor — he said the state may or may not require the subrecipient to separately report the resulting contract back to the federal oversight board.

According to Ryan Low, commissioner of Maine’s Department of Administrative and Financial Services, money awarded by a federal agency might be parceled out over several quarters by the state, depending on how prepared a subrecipient might be to receive the funds. This also could contribute to the time gap between when a federal agency reports awarding money and when the eventual recipient reports receiving it.

Maine files reports with the federal board on behalf of the subrecipients and vendors that receive federal stimulus money through the state, according to Low.

Low, who is head of a team of state officials that tracks the state’s use of recovery funds, said the state has a Web site, www.maine.gov/recovery, where it has posted information about how the state is using its federal stimulus funding.

The state recently updated the site to list how much state agencies have received and are spending, what uses the money is going toward and a county breakdown of projects and recipients that are getting stimulus funds through state agencies.

“We’re revamping our Web site to provide a little bit more detail about individual grants,” Low said.

The Recovery Act Web site is at www.recovery.gov.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/02/04/news/agency-tracks-stimulus-cash-on-web-site/ printed on July 30, 2014