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A Checkup on ARRA Transparency and Spending in ID

June 1, 2010

MOSCOW, Idaho - One of the promises about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the federal stimulus bill, is that it would be transparent. A new report from Idaho KIDS COUNT checks on that transparency in Idaho, as well as examines how the Gem State has used ARRA funds in the interests of children and families, and what's been left on the table.

Moscow-based economist Judy Brown crunched the numbers and says that on the transparency front, results are mixed; some information is easy to see, some has been posted late, and some is missing. But she does find there is good news in that the state has taken full advantage of ARRA funding for food stamps, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance.

"It's in addition to helping people meet very basic needs, keep food on the table, go to the doctor when they need to go to a doctor, and manage an extended period of unemployment - exactly the functions of government during a recession."

She says those programs have added benefits of creating jobs and keeping the work force stable and ready for employment as the economy recovers.

However, according to Brown, Idaho is not tapping all of the money it's eligible for. The federal Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) emergency fund, for example, hasn't been touched by the state.

"That's money that states could use to create subsidized jobs for people that are out of work. So that seems too bad to deny people that need a job, a job."

Brown says while some of the funding has to be matched with a portion of state money, the subsidized-jobs piece isn't tethered to local funding, although a written plan has to be submitted, and that takes resources the state may not have right now.

Congress is currently considering a one-year extension of the emergency fund which would give Idaho another chance to apply for the cash.

The full Idaho KIDS COUNT report, "Serving Idaho's Children, Youth and Young Adults," is available online at www.idahokidscount.org.

The Idaho ARRA website is www.accountability.idaho.gov

Deb Courson, Public News Service - ID