By Aaron Glantz, New America Media
The American public is about to find out how the government has been spending their stimulus money.
That's because on Thursday October 15, the Obama administration will release the most extensive list to date of who has received money from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), how much they've spent, and on what.
The financial information will be posted, along with an easy to use mapping tool, on the website Recovery.gov.
"Warm up your computer Friday morning and start organization," Greg LeRoy, director of the government accountability non-profit Good Jobs First, said at a Tuesday teleconference with reporters.
Just put your zip code or city into the map on Recovery.gov and you'll be able to see which businesses in your community have gotten government contracts.
The information being made available on Recovery.gov "will allow every citizen to see in their neighborhood if there has been a small business loan, a school that's been repaired or a pot-hole that's been fixed," the organization's research director, Phil Mattera said.
Visitors to Recovery.gov will also be able to see if their neighborhood is being bypassed by the stimulus package.
Information will only be be available for some of the Recovery Act's provisions, however. According to the non-partisan Coalition for an Accountable Recovery, the government will only be announcing details of federal contracts this week - between $6 billion and $12 billion of the estimated $356 billion in stimulus funds spent so far.
Details on another $204 billion in stimulus spending will be announced October 30, including grants to states and non-profit organizations and small business loans.
The government is not planning to release detailed breakdowns in spending on the hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts and additions to entitlement programs, such as food stamps and unemployment benefits, which together make up close to half of the entire stimulus package.
Data being released this week "is just a sliver of the overall impact of the stimulus," said Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch. But "when it comes to federal contracts, it's a watershed."
The data being reported by the government Thursday will for the first time allow the public to look on a simply designed government website and view not only the size of a federal contract but also how many jobs have been created by that contract.
It will not show that level of detail on projects carried out by state or local governments with federal stimulus money, but Bass said the information being made available this week represents more than a good start.
"The Recovery Act is the most transparent federal spending bill ever enacted," he said, "and it should have a powerful effect on state transparency. No matter what you think of the Recovery Act, you have to like Recovery.gov."
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