Bay State to Receive $8.7B in Federal Stimulus Dollars

Fri March 27, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Steve LeBlanc - Associated Press




BOSTON (AP) Massachusetts will receive an estimated $8.7 billion in federal economic stimulus aid according to Patrick administration officials who said they plan to track every dollar to make sure it isn’t misspent.

The administration previously had said the state would receive between $6 billion and $9 billion, but at a Statehouse hearing March 19 said they were able to refine the estimate.

The amount could climb higher because some of the money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be distributed through competitive grant programs, and some officials say Massachusetts is better poised than other states to win them.

The administration also plans to file legislation to make changes in state law to allow Massachusetts to take full advantage of the federal stimulus money, Secretary of Administration and Finance Leslie Kirwan said.

Massachusetts also is in a better position than many states to take advantage of money intended to boost renewable energy production, Kirwan said. The state has made a push to encourage solar, wind and biofuels industries Kirwan said.

The same is true, she said, for stimulus-funded grants distributed through the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, since Massachusetts has launched a $1 billion, 10-year life science initiative.

While much of the federal money will help pay for everything from clean energy projects to highway construction, cities and towns hoping to use some of the money to build new schools are out of luck.

There’s no provision in the federal law that allows stimulus money to be spent on new school construction, although some money could be spent on making energy efficient improvements to government buildings including schools, said Undersecretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez.

Some of the money comes with a 120-day “use it or lose it’’ provision. If states aren’t able to spend the money within the time period it goes back into a fund to be redistributed to other states.

Jeffrey Simon, the state’s new Director of Infrastructure Investment, said he welcomed the ticking clock, adding that Massachusetts would be in the position of getting some of those returned funds.

“We intend to be on the receiving end of that, not the giving,’’ he said.

In addition to the $8.7 billion the state is expected to receive in stimulus funds, the law also is expected to save Massachusetts taxpayers an additional $5.3 billion.

The state is eager to ensure that none of the stimulus dollars is misspent.

The administration has created a Web site it says will help residents track the money. The state attorney general, auditor and inspector general also have pledged to keep an eye on the money, which officials said will be tracked separately from state tax dollars.

Kirwan said she’d like to use a portion of the stimulus funds to help boost oversight of the program in Massachusetts.

In addition, Massachusetts is one of 16 states that will be monitored by Congress’ financial watchdog, the Government Accountability Office. The GAO must review and report on the state’s use of federal stimulus dollars bimonthly.

“We have to make sure we are doing everything we can to spend this money wisely,’’ Gonzalez said.