GAO Gives Stimulus Mixed Reviews

A new Government Accountability Office review of federal stimulus spending gives the program mixed reviews.

In government speak, that’s “Funds continue to provide fiscal relief to states and localities, while accountability and reporting challenges need to be fully addressed.”

In other words, the money is going out on schedule, it’s helping states will hurt budgets, but some programs aren’t working well and not everything is accounted for.

The U.S. has spent $48 of $49 billion dollars earmarked for the 2009 federal fiscal year ending next week, which is ahead of schedule (of a $787 billion total package). Three-quarters of the $48 billion have gone through Medicaid and the State Fiscal stabilisation program, which goes to schools. There’s also been $11 billion in investments in highway and transit projects.

But there are problems. A weatherization program has stalled because of confusion over wage-requirements; public housing improvements has been slowed by red tape; and a plan to give summer jobs to teens hasn’t worked for nearly a quarter of youth in the program, as the AP has noted.

Still, Vice President Joe Biden is happy:

White House: [The GAO] confirms what I have been hearing from people across the country: the Recovery Act is working to jump-start critical infrastructure projects, cushion the impact of record state budget deficits and provide new job opportunities for hard-hit communities. As the GAO notes, Recovery Act funds are being put to work ahead of schedule, and project bids are frequently coming in under-budget — with the millions of dollars of cost-savings often redirected to communities that need the economic boost the most.

States, housing agencies and contractors will provide more detailed progress reports in October about dollars spent and jobs created. Problem is, the GAO points out it’s not certain that information will be reliable. And next fiscal year (beginning October 1st, 2009) stimulus money doled out will more than double to $107 billion.

“Significant risks exist that will likely negatively impact the completeness, accuracy, and reliability of the information reported in the initial round,” the report says.

Here’s a short interview with GAO Managing Director Chris Mihm:

Here’s the full GAO report:

GAO Stimulus Report

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