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Thread: Stimulus job numbers 'wildly exaggerated': Boston Globe

  1. #1
    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Feb 2007

    Default Stimulus job numbers 'wildly exaggerated': Boston Globe

    Stimulus job boost in state exaggerated, review finds

    Errors, incomplete data, estimated positions go into federal report

    While Massachusetts recipients of federal stimulus money collectively report 12,374 jobs saved or created, a Globe review shows that number is wildly exaggerated. Organizations that received stimulus money miscounted jobs, filed erroneous figures, or claimed jobs for work that has not yet started.

    The Globe’s finding is based on the federal government’s just-released accounts of stimulus spending at the end of October. It lists the nearly $4 billion in stimulus awards made to an array of Massachusetts government agencies, universities, hospitals, private businesses, and nonprofit organizations, and notes how many jobs each created or saved.

    But in interviews with recipients, the Globe found that several openly acknowledged creating far fewer jobs than they have been credited for.

    One of the largest reported jobs figures comes from Bridgewater State College, which is listed as using $77,181 in stimulus money for 160 full-time work-study jobs for students. But Bridgewater State spokesman Bryan Baldwin said the college made a mistake and the actual number of new jobs was “almost nothing.’’ Bridgewater has submitted a correction, but it is not yet reflected in the report.

    In other cases, federal money that recipients already receive annually - subsidies for affordable housing, for example - was reclassified this year as stimulus spending, and the existing jobs already supported by those programs were credited to stimulus spending. Some of these recipients said they did not even know the money they were getting was classified as stimulus funds until September, when federal officials told them they had to file reports.

    “There were no jobs created. It was just shuffling around of the funds,’’ said Susan Kelly, director of property management for Boston Land Co., which reported retaining 26 jobs with $2.7 million in rental subsidies for its affordable housing developments in Waltham. “It’s hard to figure out if you did the paperwork right. We never asked for this.’’

    The federal stimulus report for Massachusetts has so many errors, missing data, or estimates instead of actual job counts that it may be impossible to accurately tally how many people have been employed by the massive infusion of federal money. Massachusetts is expected to receive an estimated $1 billion more in stimulus contracts, grants, and loans.

    The stimulus bill - a $787 billion package of tax breaks, expanded government benefits, and infrastructure improvements - was signed into law in February by President Obama, who said it would create and save jobs by preserving local government services and spurring short- and long-term economic development.

    To be sure, the legislation has accomplished an important goal: funding public services facing the ax after the recession created gaping shortfalls in state and local government budgets. So Worcester and Lynn, for example, were able to keep police officers targeted for layoffs, schools across the state lost far fewer teachers, and community agencies preserved staff in the face of mounting demands for social services.

    The president also said the legislation demanded an unprecedented level of accounting from recipients, who report on the uses of the money and the jobs via a massive online system,

    Clearly, the first comprehensive accounting had shortcomings.
    Recipients said they found the reporting system confusing, leading them to submit information erroneously, and leaving them unable to correct mistakes in their reports. Additionally, the government files are massive and unwieldy. Reports do not distinguish between newly created positions and those that were “retained.’’

    “We see $15 million construction projects with no jobs, and a $900 shoe sale that created nine jobs. Both are obviously wrong,’’ said Michael Balsam, chief solutions officer for Onvia, a Seattle data company tracking the stimulus spending. “There were a lot of recipients that did not report. Those that did report have some data challenges - wrong data or missing data.’’

    Cheryl Arvidson, assistant director of communications for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the federal government’s oversight panel for the stimulus money, acknowledged the problems recipients are having reporting job counts.

    “Some people are going to be confused. Some people are manually entering data. We figured there would be innocent mistakes,’’

    Arvidson said. “We anticipate that as we go forward . . . the data quality will be increasingly improved. We knew there was going to be a shake-out.’’

    Some of the errors are striking: The community action agency based in Greenfield reported 90 full-time jobs associated with the $245,000 it got for its preschool Head Start program. That averages out to just $2,700 per full-time job. The agency said it used the money to give roughly 150 staffers cost-of-living raises. The figure reported on the federal report was a mistake, a result of a staffer’s misunderstanding of the filing instructions, said executive director Jane Sanders.
    Several other Head Start agencies also reported using stimulus funds for pay raises and claimed jobs for it.

    At Bridgewater State, Baldwin said the college mistakenly counted part-time student jobs as full time.

    Some agencies that received stimulus money reported jobs for work that had not started. The Greater Lawrence Family Health Center reported 30 construction jobs “have been created,’’ even though it hadn’t begun construction on a $1.5 million renovation and expansion. Grant administrator Beth Melnikas said the health center does expect to hire 30 workers.

    There was often variance among recipients of the same source of funding. Some did not report any positions retained; others did. Some used different methods and got different results.

    For example, the City of Waltham said a $630,500 solar panel installation on the roof of City Hall created 10 jobs - even though the work had yet to begin. Revere spent $485,500 in stimulus funds to install solar panels on the roof of a city school. Revere’s job count? 64.

    The city’s project consultants used a different formula than the one the federal government recommended.

    “If not for this stimulus money, we would not have done the solar panel roof,’’ said Revere Mayor Thomas G. Ambrosino. “A lot went into this.’’

    Another source of confusion over the job counting is because Congress this year labeled as stimulus initiatives several longstanding programs, such as student work-study and low-income rental subsidies, that it otherwise regularly funds in annual appropriations bills. In some cases Congress increased the funding amount, too, so the stimulus legislation was a vehicle for expanding government support for people in need.

    Regardless of its label, the recipients treated the funding as business as usual. Only in September, when government officials told them they had to report on their stimulus spending, did they confront the issue of how to account for jobs associated with the money they received.

    Massachusetts property owners received $75.5 million in rental subsidies from the stimulus bill, for a reported total of 437 jobs. Recipients of 27 of the 87 contracts reported zero jobs. The others, meanwhile, simply reported the number of employees working at the property. If they received two contracts, for a larger property, they reported the employee figure twice.

    For example, Plumley Village East in Worcester listed 23 jobs for each of its two contracts for a total of 46 jobs, even though it has only 23 employees working throughout the complex.

    “There was some confusion about what they were really looking for,’’ said Karen Kelleher, general counsel for Community Builders Inc., which runs Plumley Village.

    Those overstated jobs are going to disappear from future counts. The Obama administration has recently determined the rental subsidies don’t have to be reported under the stimulus bill.

    One of those property owners, meanwhile, is frustrated by his experience with the legislation. Robert Ercolini manages a 201-unit affordable housing development in Plymouth. After being notified his annual rental subsidies were classified as stimulus spending, Ercolini renewed a request to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for more than $1 million to fix up the property, reasoning he would be creating jobs by hiring contractors. He was refused.

    “After HUD denied me money to make needed improvements and actually create jobs,’’ Ercolini said, “it’s really funny to find out in September that I’ve been receiving stimulus funds all along and they want to know how many jobs we’ve saved or created.’’

    By his count, the answer is: “No jobs.’’

    Stimulus fund job benefits exaggerated, review finds - The Boston Globe

    Seems to be an emerging pattern....

    Stimulus-jobs count in Colorado overinflated - The Denver Post

    Illinois data on stimulus-related jobs saved, created don't add up
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    Jobs created with stimulus funds lag in Texas | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Latest News

    STIMULUS WATCH: Salary raise counted as saved job
    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's economic recovery program saved 935 jobs at the Southwest Georgia Community Action Council, an impressive success story for the stimulus plan. Trouble is, only 508 people work there.

    The Associated Press: STIMULUS WATCH: Salary raise counted as saved job

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    Not all jobs 'saved' by stimulus were in danger | Columbus Dispatch Politics

    Stimulus jobs overstated by thousands
    The Associated Press: Stimulus jobs overstated by thousands
    Last edited by witchcurlgirl; November 12th, 2009 at 09:39 AM.
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  2. #2
    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Feb 2007


    Reports Show Conflicting Number of Jobs Attributed to Stimulus Money

    In June, the federal government spent $1,047 in stimulus money to buy a rider mower from the Toro Company to cut the grass at the Fayetteville National Cemetery in Arkansas. Now, a report on the government’s stimulus Web site improbably claims that that single lawn mower sale helped save or create 50 jobs.

    Earlier that same month, when Chrysler got a $52.9 million stimulus order for new cars for the government, the struggling automaker claimed that the money did not save a single job.

    Those two extremes illustrate the difficulties in trying to figure out just how many jobs can be attributed to the $787 billion stimulus program. Last week the Obama administration released reports from more than 130,000 recipients of stimulus money in which they claimed to have saved or created more than 640,000 jobs, but a review of those reports shows that some are simply wrong, while others contain apparently subjective estimates.

    A spokesman for Toro said the 50-job figure was not accurate, making it one of a number of reports with apparent errors. In many other cases, though, claims of jobs created are simply judgment calls, often by recipients trying to follow complex federal guidelines.
    More than half of all the jobs claimed — 325,000 — were those of educators that states said they were able to keep on the job thanks to stimulus aid. But some school districts said that they might not have actually laid off teachers without the stimulus money. Many Head Start programs reported saving the jobs of employees who in fact had simply been given raises with stimulus money — putting their claims of 8,000 jobs under review. Many states and private companies seem to have used different criteria when estimating whether stimulus aid had saved jobs or not, and when calculating full-time positions.

    The reports, for all their shortcomings, do provide the first check of how the stimulus bill is working so far. They suggest that more than half the jobs claimed so far are in the public sector — despite the fact that President Obama has said that he expects only 10 percent of stimulus jobs to be in the public sector.

    A computer analysis by The New York Times of government reports showed that at least 30,000 of the jobs were being claimed in highway, street and bridge construction, and at least 14,000 were with transit agencies. The analysis found that the $5 billion push to weatherize homes, which was delayed in many states because of uncertainty over how much money the workers should be paid, had yielded only a little over 5,000 jobs so far, nearly half of which were in Ohio.

    The reports, which have been posted on the government’s Web site,, provide unusual transparency for government spending, showing how much money each contractor has received and where the work has been done, right down to the ZIP code. But they seem to raise as many questions as they answer.

    The reports make no distinction between a newly created job and a saved job. They do not specify whether a job is in the public or private sector. And descriptions of the work vary in detail, making it difficult to categorize some work and to compare how various programs are doing.

    Elizabeth A. Oxhorn, a White House spokeswoman on the stimulus, said that some of the data, which officials had always warned would contain errors, was rough because it was posted online quickly after it was received, in an effort at transparency. The jobs numbers would likely be adjusted both upward and downward, she said.

    “As with all economic indicators — even statistics that have been around for decades — the brand-new measures posted last week are subject to subsequent revision, as further analysis clarifies and improves the data,” she said.

    Although President Obama initially said that 90 percent of the jobs created by the stimulus program would be in the private sector, the data suggests that well over half of the jobs claimed so far have been in the public sector. They include the 325,000 jobs in education, including teachers, administrators and support staff, as well as many of the 73,000 other jobs paid for with education grants, many of which were in public safety.

    Republicans, who overwhelmingly opposed the stimulus program, said the figures showed that the program was failing in its stated mission of creating a large number of private sector jobs.

    Administration officials said that they believed the stimulus program was still on track to save or create 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year, and that in the end 90 percent of the jobs would be in the private sector.

    The job data can be loose. Philip Mattera, the research director for Good Jobs First, a labor-oriented research organization in Washington, examined the reports and found 2,464 projects that claimed no jobs at all, even though more than half of the work had been done, at a cost of more than $1 billion. That suggests that many projects have undercounted job creation.

    But the dogs that do not bark are not receiving as much attention as those that do. Onvia, a Seattle company that tracks government spending at the federal, state and local levels, noted that the data is only as good as the recipients that have reported it, and pointed out a number of questionable reports.

    In one, a Kentucky shoe store reported that it had created nine jobs with an $890 order for work boots. In another, a $7,960 contract for a “Basketball System Replacement” in Ohio claimed three jobs.

    It was not clear what positions they played.
    It's no longer a dog whistle, it's a fucking trombone

    All of God's children are not beautiful. Most of God's children are, in fact, barely presentable.

    If I wanted the government in my womb I'd fuck a Senator

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