Tracking Stimulus Funds in Ventura County

Here's my cover story on the stimulus package here and its work in Ventura County in the Reporter…

"If you ask county administrator Sue Hughes how much money from the massive economic recovery bill, passed in Washington in February of this year, is going to Ventura County, she will direct you to the county website, which lists the most recent total as $48 million.

Ask the state of California, and they will tell you the total amount of Federal funds being spent in Ventura County is $74.7 million, about half of which they categorize as tax relief, including suspending taxes on the first $2400 of unemployment benefits, a first-time homebuyers tax credit of $8000, among numerous other tax cuts designated by Congress.

Ask the Federal government how much money it is spending on Ventura County, on the other hand, and they will tell you on their site, recovery.gov, that the total adds up to $246 million. That figure is much higher than state and county figures because it includes both tax cuts and contracts administered within the county, even if the actual cash is spent elsewhere. A $55 million contract to install new utility meters at military bases around the country is credited to Ventura County because the contract will be administered at the Navy base in Pt. Hueneme, even though most of the money will be spent elsewhere. That $246 million also includes extra money spent on school districts under long-standing entitlement programs such as Title 1, which provides low-income school districts with additional resources, such as reading specialists.

It's a dollar figure far larger than other estimates, including that of non-profit non-partisan ProPublica reporting institute, which estimates the Federal government has spent $64 million in Ventura County.

Confused yet?

Officially the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will spend $787 billion nationwide, but how much has been spent so far in Ventura County, for what, and what benefits have come to people who live in the county is a guessing game — even for the experts who oversee the grants and loans from taxpayers.

Hughes, who was given the job of administering the loans and grants for the stimulus funds because she was already in charge of $25 million in Federal money being spent on wastewater treatment in the county, admits that the variety of funding numbers can be baffling.

"The numbers look screwy because a lot of these funds are going to existing programs," she said. "So is it new money coming to the county from Washington? Or are these funds providing a service by keeping people working, retaining jobs that might otherwise be lost?"

For the rest, please click here

Recoverystoryimage

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