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Tracking the Recession: State Stimulus Web Sites Get Mixed Marks



August 6, 2009 By

Reprinted with permission from Stateline.org

Interested in learning from your state how it's spending its federal stimulus dollars? You may find the information more easily if you live in Maryland, Colorado or Washington, but good luck if you call Illinois home.

The group Good Jobs First ranked Illinois dead last in its report that rates all 50 Web sites that states created to show how and where their shares of the $787 billion stimulus dollars are being spent. On a scale of zero to 100 for 10 criteria, Maryland scored the most points with 80, while Illinois received a zero, largely because its site offers only national figures and nothing on how much is being spent in the state.

The group considered how well a Web site tracked all federal recovery money coming into the state, but also looked more specifically at how a state displays information about stimulus highway projects, which the group called "a high-profile" aspect of stimulus spending. Illinois was the only state to rank last in both categories.

Sites earned high marks if they included information about the broad categories of stimulus spending; descriptions of specific spending projects; contract details, including dollar amounts; maps showing the location of projections; and data about jobs created.

But just because a state's own Web site is lacking doesn't mean taxpayers are in the dark. The White House's recovery Web site offers state-by-state information, including for Illinois. And Illinois is also one of 16 states that the U.S. General Accountability Office is closely following on its recovery Web site and in its bimonthly reviews of stimulus spending.

Other online sites with state-by-state information include: the Council of State Governments' StateRecovery.org; States for a Transparent and Accountable Recovery or STAR coalition; the country's mayors at MainStreet Economic Recovery; and from the private sector, Recovery.org. Many cities have their own stimulus tracking sites, including New York City's Stimulus Tracker and San Francisco's recovery site.

Another resource for tracking how states are managing stimulus money and which programs are receiving funding as part of the recovery effort is Stateline.org's stimulus special section.

The report from Good Jobs First, a nonprofit watchdog group, found that Maryland is the only state Web site that allows users to correlate where the stimulus dollars are being spent with patterns of unemployment and home foreclosure rates. Maryland joins Colorado, Washington and West Virginia as the only states that provide information about jobs creation.

Only 10 states' sites provide names of contractors being awarded stimulus funds and the dollar amounts, and only 11 display maps showing where individual stimulus projects are being done.

"Many states are failing to support President Obama's vow that the recovery act will be carried out with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability," Good Jobs First Executive Director Greg LeRoy said in a statement.


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