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W.Va. Agencies Spend $250M From Stimulus So Far

Fri November 20, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Lawrence Messina

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) The Manchin administration has so far spent approximately $250 million from West Virginia’s share of the federal stimulus, according to preliminary figures released recently.

The amount reflects spending by state agencies, and not other stimulus beneficiaries such as county and local governments, health care centers and airport authorities.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is expected to deliver an estimated $1.8 billion to the Mountain State over the next several years, with at least $1.2 billion of that going to state agencies.

Everyone receiving stimulus money had until Oct. 10 to file reports detailing their handling of the funds. After a review by federal officials, all reports should be finished and posted online after Oct. 31.

West Virginia officials said the state’s spending figure could change by then. So could their estimate of jobs created or saved by the state-spent stimulus funds. While not yet final, officials said that figure will exceed 1,500.

“I think we’re doing a good job of getting money to the street,’’ said Danny Scalise, Gov. Joe Manchin’s ARRA coordinator.

Figures available from about a dozen other states so far show California has both spent the most, $5.3 billion, and boasted the biggest jobs figure at more than 100,000. Idaho, by contrast, has spent a reported $12.8 million that has kept or created 492 jobs.

These estimates and their underlying reports are separate from the nearly $16 billion worth of stimulus-related federal contracts detailed by an Obama administration release recently. Military construction and environmental cleanup projects contributed to the resulting boost of about 30,000 jobs.

An analysis by The Associated Press suggests that West Virginia has benefited from $58.1 million worth of these contracts. About $3 million worth of the contracts from this sliver of the stimulus spending has been credited for 31 jobs in nine counties, the analysis indicates.

In terms of state agency spending, West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources accounts for around $198 million of the February-to-Sept. 31 spending total. That figure reflects increased funding for the state Medicaid program, as well as money that offset cuts to the department’s portion of the general revenue budget that took effect July 1.

Road and bridge-type projects consumed the next highest share during the reporting period, about $36 million. The state has already identified around $210 million worth of needs for this slice of the stimulus pie.

“We’ve spent a pretty good portion of our highway money when compared to other states,’’ Scalise said.

He estimated another $4.3 million has been spent by the state’s employment programs. State school spending, the weatherizing of homes, water cleanup projects and senior services are among those areas that each account for other, smaller shares of the spending to-date.

Scalise noted that a number of other states have already heavily tapped their portion of stimulus funds reserved to aid the education portions of their budgets. West Virginia avoided that quandary during the budget year that ended June 30. It did rely on $23 million for the current budget, however, and expects to need even more with next year’s.

Scalise also expects the state to have spent less than others on Medicaid. Manchin administration officials have sought to avoid expanding the health care program, while reserving as much excess funding as possible in advance of projected shortfalls.

“This is another product of us getting into the recession a little bit later,’’ Scalise said.

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