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Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010 10:57 pm

Stimulus money slow to get here

Illinois has received some money for Sangamon County, but the county hasn’t seen it yet

Sangamon County stands to gain $666.5 million in stimulus funds under the year-old American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but little of that money has arrived.

The county’s share of economic recovery funds rank it third in the state behind Cook and DuPage counties, according to records from the state stimulus Web site. But as of Dec. 15, 2009, the latest date for which figures are available, only $49.6 million – about seven percent – of funds promised for projects in Sangamon County had been disbursed by the federal government to the state agencies overseeing stimulus projects here. (Funds are classified as “awarded” when the federal government has allocated them to a particular project and “received” when the state agency overseeing the project or the final recipient has actually obtained the funds.) Still, Sangamon County ranks eighth among the state’s 102 counties in terms of stimulus money received so far.

There are seven categories under which stimulus projects may fall, and more than half of the funds received for Sangamon County are going to the category of education. About $27.4 million has been received by the state on behalf of schools in the county, out of about $29.1 million promised to the county in that category.

Illinois Times reported in December that many area schools, including Springfield School District 186, have yet to actually receive the funds because the grants must go through the Illinois State Board of Education first [see “Springfield schools waiting for federal recovery funds,” Dec. 10, 2009]. District 186 has yet to receive three separate grants totaling almost $8.7 million, though District 186 Title 1 manager Larry McVey says the money is expected very soon. The remaining $18.7 million will go to other school districts in Sangamon County.

The state has received $6.6 million out of $11.5 million awarded for health and human services projects in Sangamon County, though not all of that money will benefit the county. About $6 million will be used by the Illinois Department of Human Services for the federal food stamps program, now called the State Nutrition Action Plan program. But SNAP is a statewide program run by DHS offices in Springfield and Chicago, so the grant is listed as a project for Sangamon and Cook counties. In fact, that $6 million actually goes to contractor Northrop Grumman Corporation to “help states administer the SNAP program,” according to state records. Northrop Grumman, one of the top five defense contractors in the United States, received $15.9 billion in contracts in 2009, including more than $94 million for ARRA contracts, according to the Web site USASpending.gov. Tom Green, DHS spokesman, said $10.9 million of the total $11.5 million will eventually be used for the SNAP program in Sangamon County.  

The Illinois Department of Transportation has received about $4.5 million for transportation projects in Sangamon County, out of almost $8.9 million promised by the federal government. That money paid for the resurfacing and widening of part of state Route 97/Jefferson Street in Springfield in the spring and summer of 2009, improvements to a runway at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport and other projects.

The Illinois Department of Corrections and DHS have received about $1.2 million for public safety projects such as rape prevention in Sangamon County, out of about $5.9 million promised. About $1.3 million has been disbursed to state agencies for workforce development projects like worker training and job placement out of about $2.6 million promised. Lincoln Land Community College, for example, has received $89,262 in grants to better prepare students and laid-off workers to enter or re-enter the workforce. Energy and environmental projects in Sangamon County have been promised about $3.5 million, with $2.2 million received by the state so far.

The state Web site shows no money awarded for housing projects in Sangamon County, though Illinois Times earlier reported on $1.1 million in ARRA funds for the federal Homelessness Prevention Rapid Rehousing program for Springfield [see “An end to homelessness?” May 27 2009].

Of the 2,094 projects for which Illinois has been promised money, about 218 (10.4 percent) are complete. Another 838 (40 percent) have yet to begin, while 179 (8.5 percent) are more than half completed and the remaining 859 (41 percent) are less than half completed. The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that 193 of the state’s 611 transportation stimulus projects are complete, though most state agencies do not report project completion status at the state or county level.

In total, Illinois has been awarded $6.4 billion – higher than the nationwide average of $3.1 billion, but far less than the $18 billion awarded to California and the more than $10 billion awarded to New York and Texas.

Fund recipients in Sangamon County estimate that about 430 jobs have been created or saved so far, according to data from the state recovery Web site. However, many of those jobs are expressed in decimal form – 0.24 jobs, for instance – because of the formula used to calculate that figure, so it is difficult to know the true impact of the stimulus on jobs. It is unclear whether the stimulus money actually created or saved 430 jobs in Sangamon County.

For more detailed information, visit the Illinois Recovery Web site at http://recovery.illinois.gov or the federal Recovery Web site at http://www.recovery.gov.

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

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