With last Friday’s unprecedented release of information on Recovery.gov, we’ve begun to see lots of interest in the specific types of projects that have been funded by the Recovery Act. Even more specifically, we’re seeing reports that Recovery Act funds have been spent on questionable or wasteful funds.
We are always on the lookout for wasteful or unwise projects under the Recovery Act, and one reason why we wanted all the projects information posted online with unprecedented speed and transparency was so that if something slipped through, the press and public would find it and we could take action. More than 170 proposed Recovery Act projects have been halted or altered due to our review process.
That said, some of what’s been written or said about Recovery Act projects is just plain wrong. Transparency requires calling out bad projects when we find them – but it also equally means responding to false criticisms when those are leveled, too. Here are 10 myths about Recovery Act projects that have cropped up lately.
- Recovery Act funds are being used to renovate a Lancaster County train station that hasn’t been used in 30 years. Actually, more than 80,000 passengers use the Elizabethtown station every year, a number which has increased approximately 90 percent in just five years. This station sits along an important transit line in Eastern Pennsylvania between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and renovations will help the continued growth in business development and improving the quality of life for residents of this rapidly growing area.
- Recovery Act funds are being used for a snow-making facility in Duluth, Minnesota. Proposed as a potential project before the Recovery Act was even signed into law, this Duluth project was never approved, and no Recovery Act funds were directed to this proposed project.
- Recovery Act funds are being used to install a guardrail for a dry lake bed in Oklahoma. This project was halted months ago as the Army Corps looks into other ways to address safety issues in this area – but assertions that funds are being used for this project continue.
- Recovery Act funds are being used by the U.S. Forest Service to breed and do research on bugs in Connecticut. Yes, these funds are being used by the USFS – but to renovate and improve Connecticut research facilities to allow them to better respond to the need for more research into invasive species that are devastating our forests. These invasive species, such as gypsy moths and wooly adelgids, are causing damage to both our parks and our natural resources, and research into potential methods of control is definitely not a wasteful use of resources.
- Recovery Act funds are being used to purchase a freezer for fish sperm at the Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery, in South Dakota. Actually, no Recovery Act funds are being used for this project.
- Recovery Act funds are being used to weatherize eight pickup trucks in Illinois. No – once again, there are no Recovery Act funds being used for this purpose.
- Recovery Act funds are being used to purchase 22 toilets for use in the Mark Twain National Forest. Actually, the funds are being used to purchase 22 complete, prefabricated restroom buildings for the National Forest – and include site preparation and installation. At $21,000 per building installed, this is a reasonable cost and provides construction jobs in this area.
- Recovery Act funds are being used to study how children perceive foreign accents. Recovery Act funds are being used to support this and other National Institutes of Health (NIH) projects. In this case, this basic research project will be particularly beneficial to children with hearing problems.
- Recovery Act funds are being used to build a bridge connecting two Microsoft campuses. Reports have said that $11 million in Recovery Act funds are being used to connect two Microsoft campuses in Redmond, Washington. Actually, only about half of that amount is being used for this project, which is a vital transportation project strongly supported by both state and local officials in an area that supports over 44,000 jobs and was the region’s top priority after a rigorous, competitive review.
- Recovery Act funds are being to provide a tax credit for golf carts. Some reports have highlighted an IRS tax credit for plug-in vehicles as a frivolous use of recovery resources. In fact, the legislation that provides this tax break was signed into law by the former President, and the Recovery Act terminates this credit at the end of 2009 – rather than at the end of 2014 as the law was originally designed.
There are many projects supported by Recovery Act funds, and just as many opinions about whether the funds that support them are being used prudently. We’ve highlighted ten projects here that have been held up as wasteful – and in all cases here, there is another story. As directed by President Obama and Vice President Biden, we are always on the lookout for examples of waste and fraud, and will deal with it wherever we see it. In the majority of cases, however, we are, and continue to be, good stewards of America’s Recovery Act funds.
G. Edward DeSeve is Special Advisor to the President, Assistant to the Vice President and Special Advisor to the OMB Director for Implementation of the Recovery Act