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The Obama administration wants 70% of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to be invested by the end of 2010. At midyear, it was less than 10% of the way there.
Depending on the federal agency, funds are being distributed in two main ways.
About two-thirds is flowing in stages to the states with amounts determined on a formula basis and subsequently disbursed from states to local agencies. Another 18% is going through competitive grant programs of 26 federal agencies and will cascade into local agencies acting as the grant provider. The rest — 16% — will be distributed as discretionary funding to projects, loan guarantees, and other not-yet-defined mechanisms.
No matter how and when the money is allocated, though, it comes with new strings attached.
In an indication of how fluid the processes around this legislation are, in June the White House extended the first reporting deadline from July 10 to Oct. 10 for virtually all infrastructure-related Department of Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation, and EPA programs; and issued guidance under memorandum M-09-21: Implementing Guidance for the Reports on Use of Funds Pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for fulfilling them.
Beginning Oct. 10, recipients must share the amount received, a list of projects that includes status toward completion, the estimated number of jobs created, and information on sub-grants or subcontracts at least quarterly through www.FederalReporting.gov, which is still under development. Some agencies, such as the Federal Highway Administration, have monthly deadlines, prompting state agencies to follow suit.
Primary funding recipients, such as state agencies, have 10 days from Oct. 10 to review submissions from subrecipients such as subcontractors and local agencies. The review of the reports by the respective federal agency ensues for 10 days after that initial review.
Following these review periods, reporting will roll into www.Recovery.gov, the official federal Web site that's tracking how well the legislation is meeting its goals.
No separate funding currently exists to cover associated administrative costs. But with the pending passage of U.S. Senate Bill 1064, which passed the House of Representatives on May 19, recipients may be able to use up to 0.5% in addition to any funds already allocated to administrative expenditures for data collection; auditing; contract and grant planning and management; and investigating waste, fraud, and abuse.
Although vendor participation is voluntary, the proposal also authorizes the General Services Administration to let state and local governments use federal supply schedules to buy goods or services for stimulus projects.
Not surprisingly, all this extra paperwork is challenging the compliance, contract- and risk-management, procurement, and control processes many infrastructure operations already have in place. Here are four ways to stay ahead of the curve:
Prioritize against organizational goals. While many application deadlines have passed, the opportunity for funding is far from over.
In late June, www.Grants.gov began listing programs that are available through the rest of the year, with some deadlines extending into 2010. Additional opportunities are also likely to become available.