States scramble to track federal stimulus bucks

By , Computerworld |  Government, economic stimulus

There's no such thing as a free lunch, especially for IT.

Go to the state of Iowa's Web site, and you can see that of the $2.5 billion in federal economic stimulus money earmarked for the state under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), $553 million has already been spent on health, education, infrastructure and other programs designed to create jobs and jump-start the local economy.

Drill a bit deeper into the data and you can pull up the exact amounts spent on weatherization training and technical programs, rental assistance programs and hundreds of other individual projects.

Iowa CIO John Gillespie figures his IT organization has devoted about 800 man-hours so far to making that data available to the state's citizenry. "We actually had to build the application to give [different state agencies and programs] a way to submit data to us," he says.

But the far bigger challenge, Gillespie says, has been building the business rules and defining internal processes to comply with federal reporting requirements, which have changed or been updated several times since the stimulus package was first announced in February. States are required to file quarterly reports that fully account for every tax dollar spent.

Just as the $787 billion ARRA is unprecedented, so are the reporting demands it's making on state CIOs and IT organizations, which are scrambling to whip up new processes and tools to accurately track and account for their states' shares of the stimulus pie. The process has been complicated by a variety of factors, including exceedingly tight deadlines and complex and changing federal reporting guidelines.

The best state Web sites for ARRA tracking

States with the best ARRA-tracking Web sites, as of July:

1. Maryland (see related story)

2. Colorado

3. Washington

4. West Virginia

5. New York

6. Pennsylvania

-- Mitch Betts

Source: study by Good Jobs First (PDF), Washington, July 2009

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