Although the nearly $800 billion in stimulus funds headed to the states as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is intended to help states’ economies, some states are having to spend more money to oversee how the stimulus funds are spent.
Under current law, states must meet federal deadlines to help spend the money quickly and efficiently or they may risk losing the funds altogether.
In Nebraska, officials plan on spending $1.2 million to help oversee the state’s $1.5 billion in expected stimulus funds, according to Jen Rae Hein, spokesperson for Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman.
However, the state does not plan to hire any new officials to help keep track of how the stimulus funds are spent, Hein said, nor do they have an office keeping track of the stimulus funds.
Although Wisconsin does have an Office of Recovery and Reinvestment to keep track of the nearly $4 billion the state is expected to receive from the federal stimulus package, the state does not have an estimate of how much oversight will cost, according to Department of Administration spokesperson Linda Barth.
“So far, Wisconsin has used existing state resources to administer the federal recovery funds with the goal of holding down administrative costs as much as possible to ensure that all recovery funds almost entirely go to the actual recovery effort,” Barth said in an e-mail to The Badger Herald.
To help fulfill the accountability and reporting requirements included in the federal stimulus package, the state contracted Dale Cattanach, previous state auditor from 1979 until 1998. The state also contracted Jefferson Wells, a Milwaukee-based accounting firm, to help with transparency and reporting efforts, Barth added.
Barth said she plans to prepare a “cost recovery plan” but is currently waiting for the federal government to give Wisconsin guidance on the cost recovery for the state’s administration.
In Wisconsin, the funds will be allocated to nearly every sector of the economy, including law enforcement, transportation, health care and education, according to Barth. The stimulus also includes tax breaks for 2.2 million families throughout the state.
Like Wisconsin, Minnesota is also using “existing resources” to help oversee the distribution of federal stimulus funds throughout the state, said spokesperson for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Alex Carey.
In January, Pawlenty appointed Tom Hanson, commissioner of Minnesota Management & Budget, as the federal stimulus coordinator for the state.
As part of his new position, Hanson coordinates efforts between state agencies to help find the most efficient ways to use the federal funds and oversees the state’s accountability, working with the state’s congressional representatives and federal affairs office, Carey added.
“Since Commissioner Hansen and those who serve under him were already employed by the state — no additional state funds were spent,” Carey said.
The National Conference of State Legislatures launched an electronic discussion board open to legislators and their staff to help state lawmakers exchange ideas and practices regarding stimulus funds on Monday. The board will also be used to help answer any questions the lawmakers may have regarding the federal stimulus package.