Where’s My Stimulus?
It’s been more than two months since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) into law, so where’s the money?
Most workers saw a small boost in take-home pay earlier this month, thanks to withholding changes their employers made to implement the Making Work Pay tax credit. Many retirees have received their $250 piece of the stimulus pie. Some people who bought homes this year undoubtedly claimed the $8,000 first-time homebuyers credit on their 2008 tax returns. But most of us will have to wait until we file our 2009 returns next spring to get the rest of the tax bennies.
What about ARRA spending? The administration’s elaborate new recovery website tracks the progress of stimulus spending. Interactive maps show state-by-state totals, and the site links to stimulus websites for individual states. It’s a great place for budget geeks to while away the hours learning, for example, that Michigan will get “$345,100 to restore and retain jobs in the arts” and that a bill awaiting Governor Palin’s signature would allocate $205,577,800 from ARRA funds for transportation projects in Alaska.
A new Government Accountability Office study says it will take time for stimulus funds to reach states and local governments. Less than 20 percent of the $270 billion intended to prop up state spending will go out this fiscal year and more than 40 percent won’t arrive until after fiscal 2010. Federal agencies will allocate other funds for specific projects that states propose. A weekly tracking chart on the administration’s recovery website shows that federal agencies had sent out about $14 billion as of mid-April, nearly all to help states pay their Medicaid costs. And money from ARRA has boosted weekly unemployment checks by $25.
It’s no surprise that the stimulus has yet to get up to full speed. Much as we wanted an immediate fix, we knew it wouldn’t come overnight. But we’ve gotten off to an encouraging start and we will watch to see how the game plays out.