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Boston, January 26, 2010— A report released today shows that many states are making dramatic improvements in websites designed to disseminate information about their share of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), while others have failed to make vital information available.
This is the finding of Show Us the Stimulus (Again), a report released today by Good Jobs First, a non-profit research center based in Washington, D.C.
“The Recovery Act requires states to ratchet up transparency and show citizens where money goes. The report shows that Massachusetts, ranked 10 out of 50, has done a very good job at making the stimulus spending transparent and has focused on making that information available to the public. It also shows that there is still room for improvement,” said Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG’s legislative director.
The full text of the report, as well as the appendix for Massachusetts and other states, can be found at
www.goodjobsfirst.org/stimulusweb.cfm. The report confirms similar findings in the report, MASSACHUSETTS STIMULUS WEBSITE: What It Tells Us & How It Could Tell Us More, released in December by Common Cause, Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center and MASSPIRG.
“Massachusetts has moved from being in the middle on transparency rankings to the top 10. Not only does that show good progress, it also means that interested residents can more easily find information about government stimulus spending in Massachusetts,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “While there’s still more that needs to be done to make data more accessible, there is a tremendous amount of information available to the public on the Massachusetts recovery website.”
“Some states are making great strides in fulfilling President Obama’s promise that the Recovery Act would be carried out with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability,” said Good Jobs First executive director Greg LeRoy. “Led by Maryland, which again receives the highest score, these states’ ARRA websites do a good job in helping taxpayers understand and evaluate the role of the Recovery Act in job creation and state fiscal relief.”
The study examines the quality and quantity of disclosure by official state websites on the many different ways that more than $200 billion in ARRA funding is flowing through state governments to communities, organizations and individuals. It examines the availability of information on spending programs as well as specific grants and contracts including data relating to jobs and the geographic distribution of spending within states. Using seven main criteria, each state was graded on a scale of 0 to 100. Massachusetts ranked 10 of the 50 states, receiving a score of 65.
The states scoring highest for transparency of stimulus funds in the new report are: Maryland (87), Kentucky (85), Connecticut (80), Colorado (72), Minnesota (72), Wisconsin (72), California (69), Illinois (69), Oregon (67), Massachusetts (65), Georgia (64), West Virginia (64), New Mexico (62), New York (62), Pennsylvania (62), Montana (61) and Arkansas (60).
At the other end, the 10 states with the least adequate information on ARRA programs and specific projects, starting from the worst scoring, are: North Dakota (5), District of Columbia (6), Missouri (10), Alaska (13), Vermont (13), Louisiana (16), Mississippi (17), Idaho (18), Oklahoma (18), Texas (18) and South Carolina (19).
“We are impressed by ‘Cinderella’ states such as Kentucky and Illinois, which were ranked at the bottom in our previous assessment but broke into the top tier in the new ranking,” said Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First and principal author of both reports. “Numerous others have also improved their sites and are effectively incorporating the data states are helping to collect for the federal government’s Recovery.gov website. The state sites and www.Recovery.gov both have vital roles to play in helping the public evaluate the Recovery Act’s performance.”
Here are highlights of specific findings:
Strengths of the Massachusetts site:
• Most states, including Massachusetts, do a good job of providing information on the composition of their ARRA spending, both in broad program categories (energy, housing, transportation, etc.) and in narrower ones. Only the District of Columbia provides no program allocation information at all.
• Whether via maps or otherwise, 41 states provide one or more of the following types of detail on projects funded through ARRA grants and contracts: description, dollar amount, recipient name, status, and the text of the contract or grant award. But only four states—Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts and New Hampshire—have all five elements.
• Similarly, only five states—Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi and New Hampshire—provide the full texts of at least some ARRA contract awards. And Massachusetts has made a commitment to provide the full texts of all the contracts.
• Only 16 state sites have comprehensive search engines, and only 15 provide a data download capability. Six states—California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York—have both these features.
• Besides overall spending amounts, state residents can see where individual ARRA projects such as the repaving of a road or repair of a school building are taking place. More than half the states (28) now have some kind of project mapping feature on their ARRA site including Massachusetts.
Findings for Improvements:
• Only three states—Kentucky, Maryland and Wisconsin—provide side-by-side comparison of the geographic distribution of spending with patterns of economic distress or need within the state.
• Fourteen states have interactive maps with significant project details. This category measures mapping of contract and grant projects. While Massachusetts does employ maps on the main Recovery Act site, they do not actually map project locations or link to a geographically-defined list of projects. The maps only display geographic distribution of funds. There is a function like this for transportation projects but it is not a comprehensive representation of ALL stimulus projects, only transportation projects, and it doesn’t drill down to the contracts.
“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 what is getting done, including when and where roads are repaired, schools are funded, workers are retrained, and jobs are created or saved for thousands of Commonwealth residents.”
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