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How We Compiled and Analyzed Stimulus Spending

Updated October 2, 2013

This database combines records from the recipient-reported data on Recovery.gov and Recovery Act grants and loans reported by agencies on USAspending.gov . In cases where we found the same record reported in both data sets, we removed the duplicates. It’s possible we missed some duplicates because of differences in the records.

Please email scott.klein@propublica.org if you suspect a problem with a record.

Updated data from Recovery.gov data was released Jan. 30 and includes recipient-reported data through Dec. 31, 2011. The recovery data from USAspending.gov also includes some grants and loans from January 2012.

We filled in missing information and corrected data entry errors when we found them and could verify the information.

With our features, you can:

  • Search by federal agency
  • Get summary data for your state and county
  • Get a list of recipients for your area

You also can track companies by DUNS number to see what grants, loans or contracts they received. A DUNS number is a unique nine-digit number used to identify a company or an organization. The numbers are issued by Dun & Bradstreet, which provides business information for credit and marketing. (Warning: Some companies have multiple DUNS numbers for different locations.)

We’ve also edited the code for the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA code). Contracts from Recovery.gov, do not include a CFDA number. So we’ve generated one based on the awarding agency to help you figure out what sorts of projects were funded in our area.

Are big chunks of money still going to counties where state agencies are located?

We made some adjustments to try to provide details at the local level and to correct for some problems we found in the data. Because more money has been awarded to local cities, school districts and organizations, we’ve included sub-recipients in our funding tallies.

How was the county assigned?

Data from Recovery.gov did not include county information. Using other databases, we added it by matching the ZIP code for where the funded project was based. In cases where funding was for statewide projects or multicounty projects, we indicated that in the data. Not all funding was traceable to the county level; for example, Medicaid figures are reported only at the state level.

How have we localized the award amount?

With the release of the first quarter 2010 data, we tried to better localize our data by subtracting the total for all sub-recipients from the total amount for the prime recipient.

In its previous data release, the Recovery Board employed a similar methodology to better localize spending. If you are using the raw data from Recovery.gov, that field is called “local amount.”

We used the local amount, but made some adjustments to correct for errors.

We found more than 500 cases where the total amount awarded to all sub-recipients added up to more than the total award amount. We identified other cases where there was a duplicate record for a sub-recipient. In those cases, we’ve backed out the amount for the duplicate. In other cases, we’ve set the adjusted prime amount to zero.

We found nearly 200 cases where the awards contained no report by the prime recipient. According to folks at the Recovery Board, every award should have a prime recipient. These cases mean that either the prime recipient did not report or a prime recipient was mistakenly classified as a sub recipient. In those cases we added a “dummy” prime recipient record to let you know that is the case.

Since we began analyzing the recovery data, we have found thousands of cases where the data contained DUNS numbers for vendors, but no recipient name was listed. We looked those up and filled in the recipient name.

You may still find negative amounts in the data that we used from USAspending.gov; those reflect loans or grants that were either cancelled or scaled back. The negative amount represents the refund back to the awarding agency.

How did we solve the mystery of the ever-expanding list of Pell Grants?

We noticed when we pull data from USAspending.gov that the number of Pell Grants doubled or tripled. So we did some checking with OMB, which is in charge of USASpending.gov and the U.S. Department of Education, which submits the information. We found out that many of the records were revisions to existing records (but previous totals still added correctly).

To correct this problem, we calculated the total federal award amount for each award over time after consulting with the U.S. Department of Education. We assigned the totals to the most recent version of the record.

For more information check the Recovery.gov data User’s Guide (PDF) or check out our recovery data FAQ .

Staff writer Michael Grabell, data analyst Joe Kokenge and interns Sydney Lupkin and Srinivas Rao contributed to this report.