Davis Questions State's Administration of Federal Stimulus Money
May 29, 2009
Dear Governor Riley,
I write regarding concerns that my constituents have raised with the state’s administration of funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
As you know, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or “stimulus act,” is having a tangible impact on families all over the state of Alabama. These funds spared the jobs of over three thousand teachers, extended health insurance for thousands of newly unemployed workers, and provided tax cuts for over 97% of Alabamians (without raising taxes on anyone). The state’s general fund budget received over $1 billion from the recovery act, an event that singlehandedly spared Medicaid from intolerable reductions in services.
Despite these enormous benefits, my office has unfortunately received too many complaints regarding our state government’s administration of recovery funds that are targeted at infrastructure and community development. The consistent refrain from numerous business owners, local government leaders and community groups is that there is too little transparency in the process; they complain that not enough information has been provided regarding the process for competing for stimulus dollars or the method the state uses for evaluating projects for funding. There is another constant theme—that some of the most distressed counties in the state, including two counties with eighteen percent plus unemployment, Dallas and Wilcox, have received almost no stimulus infrastructure funds.
Congress made the decision to give state governments--and not members of the US House or Senate-- exclusive authority over how stimulus dollars would be processed. I suggest that it is time for a serious reevaluation of Alabama’s process for distributing these funds, with an eye toward clarifying the decision-making process and accelerating the speed at which stimulus dollars reach some of the most underserved areas in Alabama. I also propose that you send representatives of ADECA and the Department of Transportation to a meeting of community leaders from my district that I will convene to discuss the progress of the stimulus on June 22nd. While we have disagreed over some aspects of the stimulus plan, notably your decision to reject $99 million in federal relief for unemployed workers, the timely and transparent distribution of recovery act dollars is a goal that I believe we share. Our mutual constituents deserve to receive the benefit of a commitment that the President and Congress made to all Americans. Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss this issue further.