Recovery Act reporting 101: OMB hosts webinars to answer stimulus reporting questions

The first of a series of webinars conducted by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was held this morning to provide an overview to Section 1512 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Hosted by Danny Werfel, the Deputy Controller of Office of Federal Financial Management (OFFM) within the OMB, he said the agency has received a lot of questions about recipient reporting, ranging from data elements, to timelines, to reporting logistics. The goal of the webinars, according to Mr. Werfel, is to answer as many questions as possible and give a plain-language presentation of what OMB has already issued in guidance.

The key issues discussed during the first webinar included, the relationship between Recovery.gov and FederalReporting.gov, the 1512 reporting framework and reporting requirements as it relates to jobs.

Recovery.gov is the public website. FederalReporting.gov is the mechanism by which recipients of federal stimulus dollars provide information to the federal government. FederalReporting.gov will go live for registration on August 17, 2009 – around ten days ahead of schedule, as previously reported by OMB.

“Recovery.gov is fueled by data,” Mr. Werfel said. “Agency data and recipient data is what makes Recovery.gov tick.”

In order to get that data from prime and sub-recipients, the government has provided a framework (see figure below) assigning responsibility and defining data elements for those who receive federal stimulus funds. Prime recipients are ultimately responsible for making sure information is submitted to the federal government in a timely and reliable fashion. Prime Recipients are those “entities that receive that first check, are the first hands to touch the money from the federal government,” Mr. Werfel said.

recipient-reporting-figure

According to Mr. Werfel, OMB will be receptive to calls for more detail, if reporting on sub-recipients and/or prime contractors does not reveal a complete picture of how the stimulus is being spent. “We are closely going to examine, over the first few quarters, weather an expansion [of the framework] is necessary and viable to meet the transparency requirements of the Recovery Act.”

Early guidance issued in February by OMB had outlined global reporting to begin July 10. That date was set in the hopes of creating a “test run” for those submitting data to the federal government, Mr. Werfel said. But unfortunately, FederalReporting.gov was not in place for the July 10 deadline. “Instead we are running pilots on a limited basis, collecting information from recipients,”

The process is helping OMB understand what questions might come up, ways to troubleshoot and how the system will work in October – the federal mandated deadline for reporting. “Fortunately, Mr. Werfel said, [We’ve had overwhelming interest from the community to participate, but we only had the capacity to support a limited pilot.” (See figure below for full outline of reporting timelines)

recipient-reporting-timeline-figure

Mr. Werfel said the OMB also had a lot of questions about jobs creation under the Recovery Act. “Makings sure temporary and part-time employees don’t count as full-time jobs created under the Recovery Act,” is a major priority of OBM’s latest round of guidance. It will also be the focus of the agency’s next webinar (2pm ET – 4pm ET Monday). Accurate jobs creation numbers will be achieved, “by tying everything to a standard workweek and a standardized formula,” Mr. Werfel maintained.

“Section 1512 is absolutely essential to the success of the Recovery Act. No way to understate how important 1512 is to the government and the success of the Recovery Act.”

Webinars further detailing prime and sub-recipient reporting responsibilities, as well as jobs creation guidance, will continue this afternoon through Wednesday. To participate in future webinars, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/recovery

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