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What's in your wallet? Not ARRA funds!

Recently, Puget Sound Regional Council/Prosperity Partnership sent an email to interested parties soliciting feedback on what’s working and not working with regard to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). These thoughts will be brought to DC on July 27 as part of the Brookings Institute’s Recovery Innovation Planning Session.  

The criteria for feedback about ARRA implementation barriers included “concrete examples of the current or emerging challenges applicants are facing in trying to apply federal investments (ARRA and others) to their effort.  This could include a critique of existing processes (including applications, capacity, resources), rules and regulations (including difficulties in commingling or integrating multiple funding sources), statutory limitations, or even the structure of ARRA itself.”

I posted this on Twitter and LinkedIn asking for feedback and was promptly inundated well beyond this region and state. Certainly, I knew there were issues. And I refrained from providing my own input given political considerations and how this might affect client initiatives on my plate (and therein lies at least one flaw). However, some of the complaints were common.

The prevailing one was about the decision to funnel monies to government and existing agencies. Why? The belief that a truly competitive process had been lost in a maze of politically-charged decisions, rife with pet projects and bureaucratic mayhem (that last term was courtesy of a Boston writer).

One private contractor wrote about efforts to become part of a vendour roster for upcoming energy-related projects for homes, only to be brushed off and told by the agency receiving ARRA funds that it would instead partner and provide those funds (and work) to the housing authority. Another entity complained of seeing monies awarded to a company which had failed to complete basic ARRA project requirements. Still another complained of constantly changing criteria and deadlines, or having to ride herd on numerous websites and emails just to stay informed.

Perhaps some of this will pan out as disgruntled would-be recipients, but what’s clear is the current process has been less efficient than anticipated. Endless meetings, an ever-changing landscape, selective focus…none of this gets stimulus funding out of the bottleneck and into the hands of small businesses which will then seek more credit and create jobs towards economic vitality.

 
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Dona Keating's picture
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