D.C. has no count of jobs from stim­u­lus

Re­ceived $885M from feds since ’09

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY JEF­FREY AN­DER­SON

De­spite re­ceiv­ing more than $885 mil­lion in fed­eral eco­nomic stim­u­lus funds since 2009, the D.C. gov­ern­ment — whose res­i­dents face one of the high­est un­em­ploy­ment rates in the na­tion — can­not say how many jobs it ac­tu­ally cre­ated for those who live in the Dis­trict.

Most of the money has been spent, and data sug­gest that over­all re­gional job growth did oc­cur as a re­sult of the mas­sive in­fu­sion of cap­i­tal. But a re­view by The Washington Times of fig­ures pro­vided by D.C. of­fi­cials shows that the city spent hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars with­out be­ing able to demon­strate any sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in the city’s jobs out­look.

If any­thing, the em­ploy­ment picture has wors­ened in the Dis­trict. At the end of 2011, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics, the city’s un­em­ploy­ment rate was 10.4 per­cent, ahead of only three states: Ne­vada (12.6 per­cent), Cal­i­for­nia (11.1 per­cent) and Rhode Is­land (10.8 per­cent).

That fig­ure con­trasts sharply with a 5.5 per­cent un­em­ploy­ment rate in the met­ro­pol­i­tan D.C. area, which in­cludes parts of Mary­land, Virginia and West Virginia.

In the Dis­trict, ac­cord­ing to the Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics, the un­em­ploy­ment rate has in­creased by 8 per­cent since 2009, as the D.C. gov­ern­ment was re­ceiv­ing his­toric lev­els of fed­eral stim­u­lus fund­ing via con­tracts,

grants, loans, tax ben­e­fits and en­ti­tle­ments.

News re­ports in re­cent weeks also showed that, ac­cord­ing to a study by the non­profit in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism site Propublica, the Dis­trict ranks high­est in the na­tion in terms of per-capita re­ceipt of fed­eral stim­u­lus funds. Yet the city’s own num­bers show that it has a long way to go to demon­strate tan­gi­ble re­sults for its own res­i­dents.

Ac­cord­ing to the D.C. Of­fice of the Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer, the best es­ti­mate of fed­eral stim­u­lus funds re­ceived by the D.C. gov­ern­ment from fis­cal 2009 through fis­cal 2011 is $885.6 mil­lion.

To keep track of how that money trans­lates to job cre­ation, the city ad­min­is­tra­tor must file quar­terly re­ports to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment un­der the Amer­i­can Re­cov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act of 2009, said Tony Robin­son, di­rec­tor of public af­fairs. In re­sponse to a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest by The Times, Mr. Robin­son dis­closed eight quar­terly re­ports that the Dis­trict filed un­der the act, show­ing the cre­ation of more than 9,500 jobs.

Of those jobs, more than half — 5,961 — were cre­ated by the Of­fice of the State Su­per­in­ten­dent of Ed­u­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis by The Times. But ac­cord­ing to the of­fice, which re­ceived ap­prox­i­mately $224 mil­lion in fed­eral stim­u­lus since 2009 through the end of last year, and which says it “cre­ated or re­tained” 7,007 jobs since the stim­u­lus be­gan, it’s any­one’s guess how many D.C. res­i­dents were hired.

“Each grant is unique, some lead to job cre­ation more than oth­ers,” said Vanessa Carlo-mi­randa, di­rec­tor of grants man­age­ment. “We can only re­quire lo­cal hir­ing to the ex­tent the fed­eral gov­ern­ment re­quires it, and gen­er­ally the only re­quire­ment is to track the num­ber of jobs cre­ated or saved.

“It’s just not our man­date, even though we do a lot of train­ing to en­sure com­pli­ance with the re­port­ing re­quire­ment,” she said. “I’m sure there are peo­ple who col­lect such in­for­ma­tion in D.C., but I don’t know who.”

The D.C. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, which says it cre­ated 1,253 jobs in the city’s eight quar­terly re­ports re­viewed by The Times, and which says it has cre­ated some 700 more since the data were dis­closed, struck a sim­i­lar tone.

“Lo­cal hir­ing re­quire­ments don’t gen­er­ally ap­ply on fed­er­ally funded pro­grams,” spokesman John Lisle said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t en­cour­age lo­cal hir­ing when­ever pos­si­ble, but there’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween that and what we can re­quire un­der the law.”

When asked how many jobs the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion has cre­ated for D.C. res­i­dents with the use of more than $123 mil­lion in fed­eral stim­u­lus funds, Mr. Lisle replied, “I don’t know. We don’t track D.C. hires.”

The D.C. Depart­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment, which says it has re­ceived $57 mil­lion in fed­eral stim­u­lus funds, cre­ated 516 jobs, ac­cord­ing to the eight quar­terly re­ports re­viewed by The Times. Depart­ment of­fi­cials couldn’t say how many D.C. res­i­dents re­ceived those jobs.

“We def­i­nitely did not col­lect data on D.C. res­i­dents,” said spokes­woman Donna Henry, who noted that ad­di­tional jobs may have been cre­ated apart from the data re­viewed by The Times. “There’s also a lot of sub­con­trac­tors in­volved.”

D.C. of­fi­cials said that track­ing jobs is not as easy as it sounds. One of­fi­cial, who re­quested anonymity be­cause the per­son was not au­tho­rized to speak for the agency, said each depart­ment that re­ceives fed­eral stim­u­lus funds re­ports its ex­pen­di­tures to the city ad­min­is­tra­tor on a quar­terly ba­sis. That of­fice takes the to­tal ex­pen­di­tures and runs them through a for­mula to come up with the the­o­ret­i­cal num­ber of jobs cre­ated or re­tained for bud­getary pur­poses, the of­fi­cial said.

“It doesn’t count ac­tual full-time em­ploy­ees,” the of­fi­cial said of the for­mula.

At a re­cent D.C. Coun­cil re­treat, a fre­quent theme among the coun­cil mem­bers was the need to en­cour­age lo­cal busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and lo­cal hir­ing. Mayor Vin­cent C. Gray has made job cre­ation one of his top three pri­or­i­ties.

Yet ac­cord­ing to the data re­viewed by The Times, the state su­per­in­ten­dent’s of­fice and the de­part­ments of trans­porta­tion and en­vi­ron­ment ac­counted for al­most half of the Dis­trict’s re­ceipt of fed­eral stim­u­lus funds and re­ported cre­at­ing roughly 80 per­cent of its new jobs through those funds, but could not demon­strate the cre­ation of ac­tual jobs for D.C. res­i­dents.

The stim­u­lus jobs-cre­ation vac­uum pre­dates the Gray ad­min­is­tra­tion. Of­fi­cials said they hes­i­tated to al­ter the method­ol­ogy of the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion, but The Times has been re­quest­ing base-line data from the Dis­trict for more than six months.

The city ad­min­is­tra­tor’s of­fice said the Dis­trict re­ported to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment that it cre­ated 12,709 jobs as of the end of the most re­cent re­port­ing pe­riod, but of­fi­cials con­cede that the fig­ure is de­rived from a for­mula based on ex­pen­di­tures and does not rep­re­sent ac­tual full-time em­ploy­ees who are D.C. res­i­dents.

In an emailed state­ment, Mr. Gray said the Dis­trict used stim­u­lus funds to help the lo­cal econ­omy at a time when it was needed most to cre­ate jobs, spur eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and in­vest in crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture that oth­er­wise would not have been pos­si­ble.

“The stim­u­lus fund­ing helped cre­ate thou­sands of full- and part-time jobs,” he said, adding that the Dis­trict is “do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to get our res­i­dents trained and work­ing in jobs for the new, tech­nol­ogy-driven and ‘ green’ economies.”

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