Tracking the Incredible Missing Stimulus Money for Business

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Entrepreneurs who felt the federal government shouldn't have shelled out so much in stimulus funding can take heart: It appears that likely a good chunk of the money wasn't spent on schedule. 

If this keeps up, some of it may never be spent at all, as it was use-it-or-lose it money with set deadlines. At last count, well more than $100 billion remained unspent.

Investigative news nonprofit ProPublica has been tracking the maddening slow dispersal of stimulus funds. Though the government trumpeted that it would meet its goal of spending 70 percent of the $787 billion stimulus total by the end of September, ProPublica's research showed that spending level was unlikely to be met.

For business owners who were hoping to catch a ride on the stimulus-money's been real slow pulling out of the station. As of the end of last month, five federal agencies had not spent one-quarter of their available stimulus funding. The biggest losers:

Dept. of Energy -- The President's enthusiasm for clean-energy projects hasn't been echoed at DOE. The slowest to grant are its "clean coal" carbon-capture program, smart-grid electricity program, and clean-energy loan guarantees. As of mid-September, ProPublica reports DOE had only spent $7.6 billion of its $32.7 billion allocation.

Dept. of Homeland Security -- The Congressional Budget Office estimated Homeland Security should have spent more than $1 billion by now, but in reality they've spent less than $500 million of a total $2.8 billion allocated.

General Services Administration -- So far, only $1.2 billion spent of $5.9 billion set aside for building and updating federal buildings. That's a lot of contractors and subs who should be at work but aren't.

Dept. of Commerce -- Has spent only one-tenth of the $840 million it has for broadband installation. In all, the agency has spent just $1.6 billion of the $7.9 billion it can hand out.

In overview, the government's figures show only about half of the contracts, grants and loans promised under the stimulus bill have been paid out. That's some $150 billion or so that should be out to states and nonprofits to distribute to companies to build roads, weatherize buildings, build clean-energy infrastructure, and more.

The slow-turning wheels of government have moved with unusual speed in trying to get out stimulus -- it's only been about 18 months since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 became law. Ordinarily, the agencies would still be taking comments on their rules for spending the money. 

So it's kind of miraculous to me that a big chunk of the money did get out. But it's frustrating that so much of it is still wrapped in red tape, when businesses could really use it, and so could our country's infrastructure. 

Would you like the government to hurry up and spend the rest of the allotted stimulus funds, or would you be happier to see the bill expire and some of the funds go unspent? Leave a comment and let us know.

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