States make gains in Recovery Act transparency websites, report finds

Laying the groundwork and internal controls for Recovery Act spending may go down in the history books as an overnight affair. But for those states listed in a new national survey of ARRA transparency websites, it has been arduous journey in a time of technological explosion and shrinking budgets.

The states of Maryland, Kentucky and Connecticut were the top three states for Recovery Act transparency, according to the national research group Good Jobs First. In their second report on the subject, Show Us the Stimulus (Again) indicates that most states have made headway in providing online tools to help show citizens details about stimulus funds in their areas.

“Some states are making great strides in fulfilling President Obama’s promise that the Recovery Act would be carried out with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability,” said Good Jobs First executive director Greg LeRoy in a statement accompanying the report.

The Washington, D.C.-based non-profit gave the highest rankings to those states who not only provided detailed information on federal spending programs, such as grants and contracts, but they also put an emphasis on data relating to jobs and the geographic distribution of spending within states.

Maryland scored an B+ with an 87 out of a possible 100. And Kentucky was a ‘Cinderella’ state – due to their low ranking (47th) in July, when the first assessment was first published – receiving a score of 85. The two states were only part of a handful of states that juxtapose the geographic distribution of spending with patterns of economic need within the state. The study also found that a majority of states, 28, utilize geospatial tools to indicate project details like dollar amount, recipient name, status and the text of the contract or grant award. However, ten states lack any mention of jobs, despite the ready availability of such information, the report said.

Authors of the report recommend that those states lacking key information about ARRA spending move to provide general spending flows to the help users begin to understand what the Recovery Act is all about. They also recommend that more states provide greater detail on individual projects, while showing how overall stimulus amounts are being spent among counties around the state.

“At a time of intense public concern about the effectiveness of government spending designed to mitigate the economic crisis, states should be maximizing their use of online tools,” Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First and principal author of both reports, concluded.

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