Nine months have passed since President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but Philadelphia has spent less than $800,000 of its allotted stimulus money.
Philadelphia applied for approximately $380 million in stimulus funds and was awarded about $158 million, according to City Budget Director and Recovery Officer Stephen Agostini. The City has spent only about 0.5 percent of that $158 million.
Agostini blamed the slow pace of spending on the lack of funds actually sent to the City.
“We just haven’t been receiving the money from the [federal government],” he said. “That’s part of the reason we haven’t been spending.”
He said the City has received less than $20 million from federal agencies so far.
The federal government distributed stimulus awards on either a formula basis, such as by population, or a competitive basis, based on the City’s successes in grant writing, Agostini added.
After the grants had been approved, the City had to wait an average of two months for the money to start arriving, Agostini said.
“We don’t understand why we’ve been unable to convert awards into cash,” Agostini said.
Most of the City’s stimulus spending and all of its jobs saved came from just one project, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which supports activities to prevent and control crime.
So far, this project has spent $714,000 and saved a total of 52 jobs. But the total amount of funds allocated for the project exceeds $13.5 million.
The reason that many of these programs have spent such a small percentage of their total allotted money is because they have a prolonged spending schedule rather than a one-time sum, said Cheryl Arvidson, spokeswoman for the federal Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board.
“In some cases, these grants are awarded so the terms ... call for a longer payout,” she said.
For example, the funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services program — which awarded $10.9 million in funding to the City to hire 50 additional police officers — was announced by Vice President Joe Biden on July 28, but the City has not yet received any money from the Department of Justice for the program. The reason for the slow pace of the distribution is that the funds are slated for allocation over the next three years.
Another problem has been communication, Agostini said.
He encouraged the project manager for each stimulus-funded program in Philadelphia to follow up with the federal department that will be providing the funds.
He also said he sent an e-mail recently to the federal Office of Management and Budget asking for assistance in securing actual dollars.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell emphasized the positive effects of the stimulus.
“There’s clear evidence that the stimulus is beginning to work,” he said at an event sponsored by Penn Democrats on Monday.
However, he added that he would have liked to see “two to three times greater” spending on infrastructure.
“Infrastructure has a dramatic effect on the economy,” Rendell said.
Philadelphia has been awarded $39.5 million for transportation and infrastructure, but has spent none of it so far.Comments powered by Disqus
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