ARRA Implementation Begins—Federal Agencies Post Initial Reports

March 6, 2009

Government Relations Update - Economic Stimulus

President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) into law (P.L. 111-5) only two weeks ago, and as promised, work has already begun to push the money out the door. A review of agencies’ actions show that while some departments are moving more quickly than others, all have begun to take the necessary steps to allocate the dollars. 

The Obama Administration has been very clear that it intends to heavily publicize the release of ARRA funding. One of the more publicized ARRA announcements occurred on March 3, when President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary Ray LaHood announced the release of $27 billion in highway funds to the states at the Department of Transportation. President Obama has also already announced the release of $155 million in Recovery Act funds to support Community Health Centers across the country, as well as $15 billion to the states for Medicaid grants.

As the federal agencies prepare to push so much of the money out to the states, individual states have begun to take their own steps to get ready.  Many states have created websites devoted to their specific recovery plans and funding.  For more information on state efforts, please visit the directory of state recovery websites.

In an effort to increase the transparency and accountability of the process, the White House issued guidance mandating that all departments create a Recovery Act website and to produce publicly available, weekly reports regarding steps taken to implement ARRA. Executive departments issued the first round of these reports on March 3, 2009, and while most reports offered fairly preliminary information, it is anticipated that these reports will contain more specific information as the programs get up and running.

A comprehensive summary of each department's weekly report on ARRA implementation follows:

Department of Agriculture (USDA)

The Department of Agriculture recovery website lists the amount of funds that have been made available by ARRA for each USDA program, but the specific steps the department has taken to implement the legislation are not yet available. The USDA was provided $28 billion from ARRA to increase the monthly amount of nutrition assistance, enable expanded opportunities for broadband loans and grants to rural communities, expand funding opportunities to develop water and waste facilities, and protect and conserve forest and farm land.

Department of Commerce (DOC)

The stimulus bill allocates $7.9 billion to the Department of Commerce. To date, the Department has not reported obligating or disbursing any of these funds. The Department has taken the following steps, however:

  • DOC drafted standardized guidance for grants and contracts issued.
  • ARRA coordinator and work groups established and working.
  • DOC recovery website

Department of Defense (DoD)

The DoD has yet to obligate any of its $7.4 billion ARRA appropriations—although the department is currently undergoing an analysis of project allocations and project-specific plans for energy research and military construction are expected to be completed by March 6.  The department has also created a senior steering committee—chaired by the Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), along with a department-wide working group chaired by the Deputy Comptroller to oversee ARRA funds 

Department of Education (DED)

The Department of Education’s Recovery Act website has been created and State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and School Modernization pages have been posted to the web, including estimated state allocations, relevant guidance from the Recovery Act, additional resources for school modernization, renovation, and repair efforts, and contact information for state officials.

Major actions completed thus far include:

  • Federal Student Aid released the 2009-2010 Pell Grant Payment Schedule to schools incorporating Recovery Act funding.  Schools may now estimate awards for students for the upcoming academic year.
  • Department of Education leaders met with the heads of 42 state education associations to review the Recovery Act.
  • The Department of Education participated in a webinar on ARRA for 100 key National Education Association leaders across the country to share information and solicit input for guidance, FAQs, etc.
  • Draft grant application materials have been developed, including detailed direction regarding recipient reporting requirements.

Department of Energy (DOE)

After the passage of the ARRA legislation, Secretary of Energy Chu announced that the Department of Energy (DOE) would reorganize how it distributed grants and loans, in order to disburse the stimulus funds more quickly. To date, DOE has not obligated or disbursed any of its stimulus money. The Department has, however, taken the following steps:

  • Secretary Chu reviewed and approved the spending plans for the Office of Science, Environmental Management, and part of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
  • DOE Recovery Office met with the Treasury Department to begin planning how to administer the Investment Tax Credit program for renewable energy technologies.
  • DOE Office of Environmental Management held a contractor summit to review accountability and transparency requirements for Recovery Act spending.
  • DOE recovery website

Department of Health Human Services (HHS)

To date, the Department of Health and Human Services has already distributed over $15 billion in Medicaid grants to states. Additionally, the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) released $155 million for Community Health Centers. Along with a launch of the agency’s recovery website, the Department developed and provided draft operating plans for ARRA programs to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review in several areas.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

DHS has not yet allocated any of its $2.75 billion in ARRA funding, but the department’s weekly report lists all major actions taken to date, including the completion of:

  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA) hiring plans
  • Mobile bridge construction solicitation package for the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).
  • Analysis, planning, and preliminary engineering design documentation on vessel projects for USCG.

Additionally, the department lists major planned actions, including:

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant guidance issued in June-July of 2009; grant applications reviewed between July-August 2009; grant awards issued between September-December 2009.
  • USCG bid solicitation advertisements for the Mobile Bridge and Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern Railway Co. bridge project.
  • Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) awarding of contracts in July-August 2009
  • DHS recovery website

Department of the Interior (DOI)

The ARRA provides the Department of the Interior (DOI) with $3 billion in additional funding. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, has named Chris Henderson to serve as “Stimulus Czar” at DOI. Mr. Henderson’s role will include overseeing the investment of ARRA funds in communities, parks, and public lands across the United States.

The various agencies that compose the DOI will use their stimulus funds as follows:

$750 million will be used by the National Park Service (NPS) to preserve and protect national icons and historic landscapes, improve energy efficiency and renewable energy use at park units throughout the nation, remediate abandoned mines sites on park units, and provide historic preservation funding to protect and restore buildings at historically black colleges. Funding under the Federal Highway Administration will improve park roads for more than 275 million visitors. NPS also will repair the seawall adjacent to the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. to protect the memorial from the effects of settlement.

$500 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) will be used to replace and upgrade Indian schools that will benefit the 47,000 Indian children that are educated in these schools. These projects will provide access for the disabled, replace inefficient heating and cooling systems, and create a better learning environment. BIA will provide $130 to $170 million in loans to spur Indian economies where unemployment far exceeds the national average. BIA will initiate several on-the-job training efforts in the construction trades to train tribal members to become certified plumbers and pipe fitters.

$280 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will improve energy efficiency and renewable use at refuges, resulting in the "greening" of facilities throughout the nation. Funding also will be used to restore wetlands, riparian habitat, endangered species habitat, and other important landscapes. FWS also will restore facilities that are key to the management and restoration of wildlife and fisheries.

$320 million for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will be used to remediate abandoned mines, which will allow increased access to public lands. Funding will help expand BLM’s capacity to authorize renewable energy development on public lands while ensuring environmental protection of these areas and restoration of native plants and animals, including sage grouse habitat. Funding is also included for Interior agencies to eliminate underbrush and other vegetation in fire-prone areas to reduce the threat and potential severity of fire.

$140 million will be used by the U.S. Geological Survey to restore and rehabilitate laboratories and research facilities and improve their energy efficiency and renewable use. Funds will help modernize stream gages that are critical for monitoring stream flow and providing information that is used extensively by water managers and the public. For example, important wildlife research facilities at Patuxent Wildlife and Research Refuge will be upgraded and two 50-year old vessels on the Great Lakes used for inventory and monitoring of lake trout and other important fisheries will be replaced.

Department of Justice (DOJ)

The DOJ’s weekly report lists all major actions taken to date, including:

  • COPS Hiring Recovery Program (CHRP) application has been finalized, and has been forwarded to OMB.
  • The DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) allocated $2.8 billion under ARRA and intends to post its formula grant solicitations and announcements between March 6 and March 9, 2009.
  • STOP formula grant allocations by state for website posting have been prepared, and drafts of solicitations for the STOP Formula Recovery Act grant program; the State Coalitions Recovery Act (SCRA) grant program; and the Transitional Housing Recovery Act (THRA) program have been completed for internal review.  Final draft solicitations for the STOP, SCRA, and THRA programs are currently in the review process.

Additionally, the DOJ has released the city, county, and state formula allocations for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program—which received $2 billion under ARRA—along with state-by-state formula allocations for Victim Compensation and Assistance (VCA) grant which received $100 million.  The formula allocations can be viewed at the following websites:

Department of Labor (DOL)

The Department of Labor's recovery website provides detail on the internal steps taken by the department to implement stimulus funding. However, no funding has been obligated at this time. Steps taken by DOL thus far include:

  • A simplified MOU was signed between the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and Treasury to reimburse Treasury for relevant costs and enable transfer of general funds to State Trust Fund Accounts in the Unemployment Trust Fund (UTF).
  • Agreements for state operation of the Federal Additional Compensation (FAC) program, which provides funds to add $25 to weekly UI checks, were executed with each state on or before February 21, 2009. States can begin making the supplemental payments the week of March 1.
  • DOL issued Unemployment Insurance Program Letters to states providing instructions on how to apply to DOL to demonstrate that state laws contain benefit eligibility provisions outlined in ARRA to reflect “modernization” of the system.

Department of Transportation (DOT)

The Department of Transportation announced the release of $27 billion in funds made available by ARRA on March 3.  The majority of these funds have been allocated to the states to repair highways and bridges.  The DOT recovery website states that “States have 120 days to assign the funds to specific projects” and will be subject to redistribution if states do not adhere to the time frame.

While announcing the release of the funds at the Department of Transportation, President Obama stated that 150,000 jobs will be created or saved by the end of next year through the highway building portion of the recovery package. The first project has already begun with crews beginning road repairs on a one mile stretch of Route 650 in Maryland, a project estimated by Secretary LaHood to have employed 60 people.

Additionally, the Federal Transit Administration announced the ARRA apportionments and program requirements in the Federal Register on March 5. The programs discussed in the Federal Register are the Transit Capital Assistance Program, the Fixed Guideway Program, and New/Small Starts.

Department of the Treasury (DTR)

The Treasury recovery website lists the $318 million of administrative funds made available for the department to implement a total of 30 modifications to the U.S. tax code contained within the ARRA legislation, including the “Making Work Pay” and first-time homebuyer tax credits, and an employer tax credit for COBRA health insurance continuation premium subsidies. However, the department has yet to list their efforts to implement the legislation thus far.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Currently, the VA has not listed their efforts to implement the ARRA legislation, which provides the department with $1.2 billion for veterans' medical facilities and repairs at veterans’ cemeteries throughout the country.

Environmental Protection Agency

The Recovery Act includes $7.22 billion for projects and programs administered by EPA. These programs will protect and promote both “green” jobs and a healthier environment by providing funding assistance to help with water quality and wastewater infrastructure needs, to evaluate and clean up former industrial and commercial sites and Superfund sites, to develop projects that reduce diesel emissions and to cleanup petroleum leaks from underground storage tanks. To date the EPA has done the following:

  • under the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs,
    • posted the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund allotments by state based on the final economic recovery appropriations.
    • issued guidance on the award of capitalization grants for the use of ARRA funding for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Loan Funds.
  • under the Brownfields program, developed a draft plan for implementation as well as draft grant recipient terms and conditions which ensure accountability.
  • under the leaking underground storage tank program, developed a draft allocation plan for stimulus funds as well as draft implementation guidance and measures to ensure accountability.
  • under the Superfund program, developed a draft implementation plan.

Additional details regarding each of these programs can be found at EPA’s recovery website.

Notice: The purpose of this newsletter is to identify select developments that may be of interest to readers. The information contained herein is abridged and summarized from various sources, the accuracy and completeness of which cannot be assured. This alert should not be construed as legal advice or opinion, and is not a substitute for the advice of counsel.