Journalism in the Public Interest

Did the White House Meet its Stimulus Goal?

The White House says it met its goal of spending 70 percent of the $787 billion stimulus package, but final numbers aren’t in and five agencies have spent less than a quarter of their funds.


V & M Star, a leading producer of seamless pipe for the oil and gas industry, in Youngstown, Ohio, on May 18, 2010. The mill was able to expand in part because of the stimulus. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Updated: This post has been updated with the White House's full report.

Oct. 3: This article has been corrected.

The White House plans to release a report today announcing that it met its goal of spending 70 percent of the $787 billion stimulus package by the end of September. If so, there must have been a last-minute push to get more money out the door.

According to early news reports, the administration said it hit its goal by spending $309 billion and issuing $242 billion in tax cuts — exactly reaching the target of $551 billion.

But for that to happen, stimulus spending (excluding tax cuts) during the latter part of the month would have had to run 30 percent higher than average this year, according to our analysis of weekly stimulus spending reports from agencies.

Those reports still aren't in for the last week of September, nor are Treasury Department estimates of tax cuts for the month. We've put in a call to the White House media office asking how they back up their numbers but haven't heard back.

ProPublica has been tracking spending on our Stimulus Progress Bar since the spring of 2009.

Since the beginning of the year, direct stimulus spending has held steady, with about $16 billion a month going to contracts, grants, loans and entitlements. To reach the report's figures, direct spending and entitlements would have jumped $9 billion since Sept. 17.

Tax breaks -- which primarily include credits and incentives -- have also been consistent, averaging $20 billion a month the first half of the year and adding up to $223 billion by the end of June. In July and August, the total increase was only $10 billion -- a slowdown that Treasury attributed to revisions in earlier estimates and a normal drop-off that comes after tax returns are processed.

News stories said the White House claimed tax relief jumped to $242 billion, an increase of $9 billion over the August figures. Treasury has not yet released its quarterly tax estimates, which would include September, and would not provide a timetable for the release.

The Congressional Budget Office had predicted that stimulus spending and tax cuts would have hit $584 billion through September.

If we hear more from the White House, we'll let you know. Meantime, we wanted to highlight the five departments that have yet to spend a quarter of their stimulus funds.

  • The Department of Energy has been the slowest agency to spend its stimulus funds, as many of the agency's programs have been tied up by an onslaught of applications and regulations regarding prevailing wages, American-made materials, increasing electricity rates and environmental clearances. As of Sept. 17, it has spent only $7.6 billion of its $32.7 billion allocation. The slowest energy programs include the $3 billion "clean coal" carbon capture program, the $4.5 billion smart grid program and the $2.5 billion loan guarantee program to support clean energy projects.
  • The Department of Homeland Security has spent less than $500 million of its $2.8 billion allocation. When the stimulus bill was passed, the CBO estimated that Homeland Security would spend more than $1 billion by now. The slow spending comes from nearly every part of the agency. For example, Customs and Border Protection has paid out less than $50 million, even though it was authorized to spend $680 million to modernize ports of entry and deploy other border technology. That program was halted briefly last fall as news media and members of Congress questioned the plan to modernize little-used border stations in Montana and North Dakota instead of busy crossings along the southwest border.
  • The General Services Administration has spent $1.2 billion of its $5.9 billion allocation in stimulus funds primarily to build and update federal buildings. That's basically on target to the CBO's estimate of how fast the GSA would pay out funds.
  • The National Science Foundation has spent almost $600 million of its $3 billion allocation to support science and engineering research and education. When the bill was passed, the CBO estimated that the NSF would have spent $1.6 billion by now.
  • The Commerce Department has spent $1.6 billion of its $7.9 billion. The slow progress is largely a result of the administration's effort to expand broadband access, a program that was significantly enlarged in the stimulus package. The CBO estimated Commerce would spend $840 million on broadband by now, but it's actually paid out about a tenth of that.

Update: The White House released the full report, which says, "As of September 30, 2010, agencies and Treasury project that this goal will be met... Information regarding actual year end outlays and tax relief provided will be posted on on October 8, 2010."

Correction: Because of a typographical error, an earlier version of this post mistakenly said the administration claimed stimulus spending of $309 million. The correct figure is $309 billion.

The last few days i had the opportunity to drive through Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee and i was witness to some of the stimulus dollars being spent. Road projects all over the place particularly in Indiana. Miles and miles and miles of orange cones and road work signs. very few workers. Was driving day and night. Saw lots of police in Indiana particularly abusing the setup by writing tickets in construction zones where they change the speed limit back and forth, and there were no road workers. I am boycotting Indiana after witnessing the scam they use to generate money.

The people who are making out the most in this stimulus seem to be the Traffic Cone manufacturers. The further south we went, the less road projects there were. The biggest cluster was Indianapolis, where there were plenty of workers, but every single freeway is jammed up and of course the police are our writing tickets.
Some of the roads like Highway 74 west of Indianapolis was being redone, but it didn’t even need it. The road was smooth the entire way, but there was still miles of cones.
I was so happy to get out of there, i don’t know how anyone could live there everyday.

We are also traveling and must agree with the previous writer. There are a lot of projects but few workers. Since one of the criteria for ARRA projects was that they be “Shovel Ready”  I wonder why it took so long for the shovel to get made? There is also little uniformity between states for road construction speed limits. In Ga for example,the speed limit dropped to 45 mph for no reason since the work was going on at least 1000’ from the road and after 1/4 mi,the speed limit increased to 60. If the Feds are funding these projects there should be uniformity in const.zones!

$309 billion, second graf
...the administration said it hit its goal by spending $309 billion and issuing $242 billion in tax cuts…

For me, the stimulus is a flop. CEO’s walking away with millions and I, a retired worker did not get the usual COLA increase in my pension, which is usually a few hundred dollars a year. So where is the equality here? I feel cheated while my health insurance premiums increase every year no matter if there was any inflation.

I work throughout Idaho with small communities, and run a housing hotline to connect people and programs or services. Since 2000, I’ve watched low and middle-income households lose ground as unemployment began to increase in the early part of the decade, and as abuse, abandonment and debt left many households with nothing to fall back on. The good news, is that I’ve seen evidence of the federal stimulus program everywhere.

Nearly 100% of the NSP1 funds (Neighborhood Stabilization Program) have been spent to purchase/repair 100s of derelict foreclosures, highway construction is robust w/ some projects nearing completion and other in full swing, our local Community Action Partners hired 25-30 FTEs in each of our four regions to perform energy audits and weatherize homes for low-income residents, etc.

100% of the Homelessness Prevention Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP) funds have been used to either keep people in their homes or to provide initial move-in costs and short-term rental assistance for homeless families with children.

I’m not as familiar with the energy or homeland security side of the equation, so can’t comment intelligently on that.

The unfortunate news in Idaho is that our governor seemed intent on enacting an ‘anti-stimulus’ program, wherein millions in unpaid corporate taxes were left on the table, and wholesale cuts were made to Health and Welfare, Education Parks and Recreation; state commissions serving the interests of disabled and elderly citizens were gutted.

More than 20 Health and Welfare offices were closed altogether and their staffs laid off. IDHW offices have been directed to handle only cases that are in full-blown crisis and to eliminate case management designed to keep people from catastrophic mental or physical breakdown. This neglect shifts the burden to local ERs as uninsured clients seek either routine or emergency care or wind up involved with Corrections (at significantly higher costs to the community).

It is clear that some see this as an opportunity to ‘starve the beast,’ to gut government programs and in turn make them so ineffectual that supporting them becomes unpopular. This ‘stepping over dollars to save dimes’ mentality is not only fiscally misguided, but also goes against the Christian ethics publicly espoused by those making the cuts to social and human service programs. It is puzzling.

Drive through Missouri. Much needed road repair in progress with workers all over the place. You will have to drive at night to see them because they try not to disrupt traffic during the day and do the work at night with high powered lights.

@slagondrayer thanks for the catch. We’ve corrected the error.

Of course they did.

In Los Angeles with $ 111 million dollars they created 50 jobs. LOL

Stefan Sigler

Oct. 4, 2010, 6:19 p.m.

Did the White House Meet its Stimulus Goal?

Yes they do !!! Means some officials’s buddys get books filled by the billions with public-debt-bucks, maybe some jobs for sometime held. Reconsider who’s got to pay for.

Maybe some roadholes filled - not bad . But prosperity for the majority passed good bye for a long time.
You, America, step ahead us in Europe.
Go ahead so we will see where we will be led to.

Got gold and silver ?

Stefan Sigler

Oct. 4, 2010, 6:39 p.m.

PS: check your old garbage. Got a disk from Frank Zappa - Overnight Sensation, or some else ? Listen !
Can you imagine today the truth he expressed 40 years ago ?

This is a recent comment about the economic stimulus from Martin Feldstein, Chairman of Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors, an economic conservative and deficit hawk:

“Before the election, I wrote an op-ed saying it doesn’t matter who’s going to win. Whoever it is needs to get the ball rolling on stimulus. I didn’t recognize how big the hole was going to be yet. But when it finally got rolling, instead of asking what annual level of spending they needed, they asked themselves how big the number could be politically, and they decided it needed to be in the billions rather than the trillions. For all sorts of reasons, it was poorly designed, but in the end, it just wasn’t big enough, and I think we all recognize that now.”

If someone with Martin Feldstein’s credentials and ideology understand what happend it is strange that so many (post Fox News) conservatives do not.

There were two basic problems with the stimulus.  The first was it wasn’t big enough.  The $1.2 trillion figure proposed by Nobel Prize winning economists like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz was probably the amount needed to drive unemployment down between 8 and 8.5%. 

The second was the desposition of funds, specifically $284 billion in tax cuts instead of targeting this money as more direct aid to the states and infrastructure projects.  The $284 billion in tax cuts was an incentive to Republican votes in the hope they would support the bill, and of course, they didn’t. 

Now many of the very same people who caused the economic collapse are claiming the entire idea of an economic stimulus was foolish.  This is what happens when you elect and then re-elect someone like George W. Bush who doubled the national debt with borrowed money used for tax cuts for the rich, an unnecessary war in Iraq, and a massive increase in government expansion including a $1 trillion expansion of Medicare.  Do we still live and learn?  Apparently not after reading some of the previous comments to this article.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Eye on the Stimulus

Eye on the Stimulus

Officials have struggled to spend the nearly $800 billion stimulus package quickly and effectively.

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