How to you keep track of $797 billion? When the stimulus package was passed last winter, the government promised that citizens would be able to use a new Web site, Recovery.gov, to find out where money was being sent. It turned out to be a bigger job than anyone had guessed, and in July the General Services Administration said the site would be rebuilt. The price tag was steep — $9.5 million, but the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which oversees the site (the name inevitably gets shortened to "RAT Board"), said it would take that much to keep track of such a vast amount of money.
The new site went live this morning. Click HERE to take a look. I'll leave it to you to say whether the site tells people what they need or want to know, but one major new feature is the ability to click on the U.S. map on the site, or enter a ZIP code, and figure out what businesses or projects near you have received grants or loans. (You may be surprised what your neighbors are doing.)
"We plan to hold federal agencies and recipients of Recovery money accountable to you, our citizens," says Ed Devaney, the board chairman, in a video on the site. "You expect and deserve no less."
Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First, an advocacy group, said, "It's a decent framework, but there are still a lot of questions about the quality of the data."
"I think there's a good faith effort being made," he said, "but we remain concerned about the nature of the jobs created, the quality of the jobs, whether they'll be lasting, and so forth.
"We recognize it's a challenge."
There is supposed to be a major flood of data in October, with stimulus fund recipients obliged to report how they're using money and what jobs it's created. The board says the site should be able to show it all quickly.