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Three watchdog groups released their findings about the strengths and weaknesses of the state’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act website – www.Ma.gov/recovery.
The brief, released by Common Cause of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center and MASSPIRG, examines how Massachusetts has used its website to provide information about recovery act spending – and describes additional strategies that could improve transparency.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the Stimulus, was both a response to an economic emergency and an effort to launch a new set of policies to build a stronger foundation for long term economic growth. Since its passage 10 months ago, the federal and state governments have been required to develop systems to distribute – and to track – hundreds of billions of dollars targeted at rebuilding our infrastructure, maintaining and improving the quality of education in our public schools, helping states to avoid budget cuts that would harm residents and the economy, supporting conservation and weatherization, investing in healthcare technology, and funding a variety of strategies to put people to work.
“Putting millions of eyes on a huge complex endeavor will identify problems and controversies that might otherwise get swept under the rug,” said Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director for MASSPIRG.
In assessing the state’s progress on designing a website, the groups measured the website against the principle that it should be comprehensive and easy for an ordinary citizen to navigate. The brief found that in some areas the state is providing information in a clear and transparent manner and in others it did not.
“The ability to see how the government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “The recovery website provides a tremendous amount of valuable and detailed information about stimulus spending.”
“ARRA came when we faced an economic crisis too big for any of us to solve alone. A response at the scale of the problem could be implemented only by everyone acting together, through government, to commit the resources needed to avoid a depression” said Noah Berger, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center “Following up on the principle that we are all in this together, ARRA included a potentially transformative commitment to give every American with access to the internet the tools to monitor how every dollar would be spent. When there are mistakes or missteps we see them immediately, as we surely have, and can demand action to correct them. We can also see when jobs are created, schools are funded, bridges are repaired, and our national economy begins to recover.”
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