Updates from Stimulusland

OK Policy is pleased to launch a new monthly Stimulus Update publication. Each month we will take a quick look at one set of federal stimulus (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA) programs. Each issue includes a short review of the program and its funding and rules. Then we address the status of the program in Oklahoma: Where are we in the funding process? How do we compare to other states? How do we plan to use the money? How much have we received and spent? Graphs show how funds are allocated and track the speed at which funds are flowing.

Our first issue looks at the two biggest stimulus programs, which provide states with federal funding for education, Medicaid, and other programs to help make up for falling state revenue.You’ll find out how these programs helped maintain state services, which agencies benefited, and how we compare to other states.

There are many other sources of stimulus news and information you may want to be aware of. Our new stimulus page includes links to many sources and we’ll update it as we find new ones. Here are some high points:

  • Oklahoma’s state recovery site, http://www.recovery.ok.gov, has been expanded and improved recently. It includes recent agency news releases and links to six state agency recovery pages. Several of these agencies have been improving their sites so taxpayers can get a better idea of how money is being used and so local and nonprofit service providers can apply for appropriate funding.
  • Stateline.org, a news service concentrating on state government issues, has created a new page, http://www.stateline.org/live/static/The_Stimulus_and_the_States, which provides charts of how the stimulus is divided up and when it is expected to be spent, along with links to state stimulus oversight efforts and news stories.
  • Closer to home, the Tulsa World has created a new stimulus tracker page, which puts all the World stimulus stories in what place, http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/category.aspx?l=stimulus_tracker.

Wednesday the three U.S. Attorneys for Oklahoma (John C. Richter, David E. O’Meilia, and Sheldon J. Sperling), Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge James Finch, and State Auditor and Inspector Steve Burrage announced joint efforts to prevent stimulus fraud in Oklahoma.The centerpiece of the effort is a 24-hour FBI hot line, 1-877-259-7337.

Keeping track of stimulus spending and resulting fraud, waste, and abuse will be a tough chore, and this effort is taking a multi-pronged approach. At the state level, Burrage’s office has embedded auditors tracking ARRA spending in the major agencies and has sent risk questionnaires to state agencies and local governments that receive stimulus money in an effort to assess where problems could arise. Burrage also is encouraging local governments and nonprofits to work now with their auditors to be sure they have appropriate controls in place. So far, this effort seems consistent with our earlier call for a transparent process and accountable outcomes.

The $787 billion stimulus is a big deal in just about every way imaginable. It’s encouraging there is so much interest in figuring out what is happening with the stimulus and holding governments accountable for how they use it. We hope that adding our voice will help Oklahomans do just that.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Shinn

Paul Shinn is a Budget and Tax Senior Policy Analyst with OK Policy. Shinn has 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's 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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