Friday, November 6, 2009

INPUT Issues New Report Card on Economic Stimulus Package

(BUSINESS WIRE)--INPUT, the leading authority on government business, today announced an updated Report Card grading the Obama Administration on its execution of stimulus package objectives for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The new grades were issued based on the release of the much anticipated recipient reports required by the ARRA. They cover four key recovery areas: Speed of Spending, Job Creation, Transparency & Reporting, and Contracting Effectiveness.

Since its first Report Card in June, which graded the Obama Administration on its execution of stimulus objectives during the first 100 days of the ARRA, INPUT has made noteworthy updates to its evaluation. Contracting Effectiveness received the most improved grade, moving from a C- to a B based on federal agencies’ significant improvement in the use of fixed price contracts and in the percentage of contract awards to small businesses. Transparency and Reporting also rose from a D to a C-, still leaving significant room for improvement to address late reporting and a lack of transparency surrounding grants applications for many programs. Speed of Spending continued to receive INPUT’s highest grade, earning a B+ based on the federal government’s adeptness in dispensing a tremendous amount of money very quickly. Meanwhile, Job Creation again received an Incomplete.

“The federal government has continued to dispense stimulus money at a record pace,” said Timothy Dowd, CEO of INPUT. “However, questions still remain about how that spending is translating into new jobs. While INPUT’s latest report card points to some noteworthy areas of improvement in the Administration’s execution on the stimulus, there is still much work to be done to address shortcomings across all key recovery areas.”

Speed of Spending: B+

In Vice President Biden’s first Quarterly Report to the President on Implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he stated that the President had set a goal of spending $350 billion by Sept. 30, 2010. In order to achieve that goal, the federal government needs to spend $4.16 billion per week. The Administration’s speed of spending has remained nearly the same as INPUT’s last scorecard, averaging $3.6 billion per week. At its current pace, the administration will spend $305.2 billion by September 30 of next year, achieving 87% of its previously stated goal.

Job Creation: Incomplete

President Obama promised 3.5 million to 4.0 million jobs would be created or saved with the passage of the Recovery Act. While recently released recipient reports put that number at 640,329 eight months after the ARRA’s enactment, the unemployment rate has risen from 8.9 percent to 9.8 percent during the same period. Additionally, 2.6 million people have lost their jobs since March and 512,000 new unemployment claims were filed during the week ending October 31, 2009.

Despite the recent release of initial recipient reporting, INPUT continues to believe that accurate reporting of job creation is ultimately unknowable because of the number of recipients reporting, the complexity of the reports, the definition of a saved job, and recipients were allowed to use a calculation when they were unable to provide actual data. As a result, INPUT once again gave the Administration an Incomplete for Job Creation.

Meanwhile, recipient reporting has shown that the cost of each job created varies wildly from state to state. For example, the cost per job created or saved in Pennsylvania was $488,930, compared to $41,475 in Montana.

Perhaps the most troubling issue is the concentration of created or preserved jobs in the public sector. Based on its analysis of recipient reports, INPUT discovered that more than half of the total number of jobs created are in the areas of education, criminal justice, corrections and public administration. There are serious concerns about what happens to these jobs when stimulus money runs out and states are still faced with nearly $200 billion in budget gaps.

Transparency and Reporting: C-

INPUT has raised the Administration’s grade for reporting and transparency from a D to a C-. Each new report has been late, based on the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) initial guidance, and the data quality of each new report has been poor upon release. However, over time the quality and completeness of previous reports has improved and INPUT expects this trend will continue. A major area of disappointment continues to be the lack of transparency surrounding applications for many of the grant programs funded by the Recovery Act.

“INPUT encourages the Administration to reconsider its approach with respect to publication of grant applications,” said Dowd. “By allowing citizens access to grant applications before the awards are made and the opportunity to comment on those applications, federal agencies could truly be taking a proactive approach to combating fraud, waste and abuse.”

Effectiveness of Contracting: B

According to INPUT’s latest analysis, federal contracting officials have substantially improved their performance in the use of fixed price contracts, small business involvement, and the establishment of new contracts. As a result, INPUT has raised the Administration’s grade for Effectiveness of Contracting from a C- to a B.

To date, the federal government has awarded 48 percent of the reported contract obligations using fixed price contracts, a 30 percent increase over INPUT’s initial report card. In addition, 86 percent of the reported contract obligations are being channeled through competitive contracts. Almost 70 percent of the reported obligations have been issued against contracts that were already in place prior to passage of ARRA. This is a significant improvement from the 94 percent use of existing contracts in June.

In addition, nearly 27 percent of the contracting dollars awarded have been to small businesses, 4 percent above the government-wide goal of 23 percent and a substantial increase from the 11 percent reported in June. With the small businesses creating 60 percent of the net new jobs since the mid 1990s, the Administration’s pattern of spending in this sector bodes well for job growth.

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