Federal Update
The road to recovery
Wyoming top list in putting stimulus funds to work; Virginia ranks last

By David Tanner
staff writer


Some states have used their stimulus money wisely and in a timely fashion, while others have not, according to a Congressional committee.

The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ranks Wyoming at the top of the list of states and the District of Columbia that received American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.

Virginia brought up the rear on the T&I Committee’s list.

President Obama signed the stimulus act into law as one of his first orders of business as president in early 2009. The action called for $800 billion to go to states to improve infrastructure, health care, education and other ready-to-go areas that needed funding.

About 6 percent, or approximately $48 billion, of the stimulus money was marked for transportation and infrastructure.

To track progress, the act contained language to require states to submit data to the House T&I Committee.

T&I Chairman James Oberstar, D-MN, published a list of the best and worst states in terms of how they handled stimulus money during the first six months.

 “Commendably, Wyoming continues to have the best record among all states,” Oberstar stated in a letter to Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal.

As of Aug. 31, Wyoming had 96 percent of its stimulus funding for roads and bridges under contract.

Virginia found itself at the bottom of the list with just 17 percent of its highway and bridge money under contract as of Aug. 31.

“Based on the state progress reports submitted to the committee in September 2009, Virginia has fallen far behind other states in putting to work its Recovery Act highway formula funds,” Oberstar wrote to Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.

As early data emerged, the Federal Highway Administration began to see a trend – that stimulus money was not necessarily being allocated for shovel-ready projects or going to areas that needed it the most.

So FHWA and Commerce Department officials pushed out stricter criteria for the use of the transportation stimulus funds, a move that netted better results.

“As of August, 63 percent of obligated projects were located in economically distressed areas representing 59 percent of ARRA funds,” FHWA Spokeswoman Nancy Singer told Land Line.

 “In addition, the Federal Highway Administration in consultation with the Department of Commerce has developed clearer guidance for states on identifying and giving priority to economically distressed areas.”

According to the Commerce Department, economically distressed areas are “where the unemployment is 1 percent or more above the national average or the per capita income is 80 percent or less than the national average.”

Stimulus money continues to flow to states. As of mid-September, states put more than $28.8 billion out to bid on 9,640 infrastructure projects.

 “While much work remains, I am pleased with the progress that has been made in the first 225 days of the Recovery Act,” Oberstar said. LL