Stimulus reports–some things are illuminated

In October, federal agencies, grantees, and contractors who are getting some of the stimulus (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or ARRA) money are required to submit six month reports. This post points you to places you can see reports or summaries of them and includes some analysis and further thoughts., the federal government’s official ARRA site, features a map of reported contracts, spending, and jobs created or saved by state. Go a little further to this page, and you’ll find agency and state details. The only reports included so far are contracts made directly by federal agencies. This amounts to “only” $16 billion, or about 2 percent of the full stimulus. In Oklahoma, you’ll see that about $80 million is under contract but just $10 million has actually been received. The biggest projects are at Tinker Air Force Base, the Tar Creek cleanup, and some bridge and airport projects. 202 jobs have reportedly been saved or created. You can find more details in this Oklahoman article.

Not everybody is satisfied with the government’s portrayal of the reporting. The Coalition for Accountable Recovery, a consortium of nonprofit organizations, recently called for improving the web site:

Both the quality of the data and its awkward presentation preclude meaningful analysis by analysts, taxpayers, or the news media,” said OMB Watch executive director Gary D. Bass. “The data must improve if the Recovery Act is to meet President Obama’s pledge of true transparency.

There is definitely room for improvement and the phased reporting process will give the team every opportunity to consider and respond to this well-founded criticism.

Whether or not it is presented more clearly, the next reporting, from state and local governments, will be more illuminating. These are the projects that make up a large share of the stimulus, were intended to stabilize the economy quickly, and can help make investments in and for the economic recovery. The White House previewed some numbers recently. It issued a report showing that ARRA education funding has made nearly all of the shortfall in state education spending. In Oklahoma and most other states, the stimulus has so far prevented teacher layoffs and tuition increases. A Tulsa World editorial on the early reporting suggests the jobs picture probably would have been worse without the stimulus.

If you’d like to learn more about the stimulus, you can look into the Oklahoma ARRA page at You’ll find a useful breakdown of the money coming to our state and a reasonably well-kept list of funding announcements and progress. The data page now provides estimates of spending and jobs created so far in our state, though details are limited. Perhaps the six-month reports and demands for more  transparency will make that site more useful. OK Policy also maintains a stimulus page, with useful links, a thorough issue brief on all the major provisions of the stimulus, and occasional updates on stimulus programs in specific policy areas.

Nobody stays awake long poring through government reports–believe me, we’ve tried. But the fact that we could try–that these reports are required, available to anyone, and pretty simple–is a huge step. Government transparency is an essential ingredient to government effectiveness. If citizens can tell how government is spending its money and what is being accomplished, they are more likely to appreciate the essential role that government plays in our economy and quality of life. We hope the greatest lasting effect of the stimulus will be a commitment at all levels of government to let the people paying the bills know what they are getting.


Paul Shinn

Paul Shinn served as Budget and Tax Senior Policy Analyst with OK Policy from May 2019 until December 2021. Before joining OK Policy, Shinn held budget and finance positions for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, the Department of Human Services, the cities of Oklahoma City and Del City and several local governments in his native Oregon. He also taught political science and public administration at the University of Oklahoma, University of Central Oklahoma, and California State University Stanislaus. While with the Government Finance Officers Association, Paul worked on consulting and research projects for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and several state agencies and local governments. He also served as policy analyst for CAP Tulsa. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from University of Oklahoma and degrees from the University of Oregon and the University of Maryland College Park. He lives in Oklahoma City with his wife Carmelita.

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