Q: What is stimulus funding?
A: Stimulus funding refers to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). It provides for billions of dollars in financial aid through tax cuts, funding for education, health care, entitlement programs, and government grants, contracts and loans. The ARRA is considered both a jobs bill and an economy-boosting bill with the following funding caps: $288 billion in tax cuts; $244 billion for education, health care and entitlements; and $275 billion in contracts, grants and loans. In all, ARRA is authorized to distribute more than $800 billion.
Q: How are ARRA monies awarded?
A: ARRA monies are awarded in three categories: 1) government grants that do not have to be repaid; 2) contracts that have to do with the immediate hiring of people to perform certain jobs; 3) loans to help jump-start projects (but must be repaid). To gain access to these funds as they work their way through the various government agencies, start by clicking on the “Opportunities” tab in www.Recovery.gov.
Q: What are some examples of these three types of funding?
A: The $8,000 first-time homebuyer credit in 2009 is one example of a tax cut. The State Fiscal Stabilization Fund distributed monies to state and local governments to avoid severe budget cuts in schools at all levels. Funding toward entitlement programs include extending COBRA benefits and housing the homeless. A popular example is the $3 billion “Cash for Clunkers” program that was managed by the Department of Transportation. More than $7 billion has been set aside for high speed Internet access in rural communities, and is handled through the Commerce Department.
Q: How is the ARRA managed?
A: The ARRA requires a 13-member Board appointed by the president to manage the funds and insure transparency in government spending, according to the requirements of the law. The Board is governed by a set of bylaws and guidelines and its main job is to provide oversight. It also has the power to subpoena witnesses, which means it can call people into court to give sworn testimony about matters related to the ARRA. This helps to ensure that the funds are handled properly. The ARRA also provides for a four-member Advisory Panel whose job is to recommend ways to prevent fraud, waste and abuse.
Q: How do ARRA funds trickle down?
A: Monies are allocated in several different ways, requiring citizens to do their research in order to take advantage of the funds. Congress has appropriated funding for 28 federal agencies. Those agencies, in turn, direct monies to state and local governments. Schools, businesses, and non-profit organizations can, however, apply directly to the federal government for an award.
Q: How has ARRA helped Ohio?
A: There have been three reporting periods to date since the ARRA was enacted. For July to September 2009, Ohio started 56 programs worth $1.6 billion in funding. This number increased to 61 programs for October to December 2009 and $2.5 billion in expenditures. Between April and March 2010, 70 programs were valued at $3.3 billion. These programs are run through the agencies that typically handle the particular type of work. For example, the Ohio Energy Resource Commission has funding for a grant program entitled Deploying Renewable Energy: Transforming Waste for Value. Schools can apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Education that offers training and technical assistance for centers for independent living. The Ohio Department of Transportation has hundreds of road constructions projects underway.
Q: Where does ARRA stand today?
A: While it is too early to say whether the Stimulus Program—not quite two years old--really will fulfill its purpose, it is safe to say that ARRA the program has gained momentum, projects are in the pipeline, and it has become more familiar to most of us.
Q: Where can I get more information about the ARRA?
A: Visit www.Recovery.gov.
Law You Can Use is a weekly consumer legal information column provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. This article was prepared by Nancy Fioritto Patete, a Cleveland attorney who has assisted a private housing association in Geauga County to obtain an EPA construction loan to upgrade its community water well using ARRA funds.