Stimulus funds can be spent tracking stimulus funds |

Stimulus funds can be spent tracking stimulus funds

Miles Moffeit
The Denver Post
Denver, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado ” The Obama administration alerted Colorado and other states Wednesday that they can use a portion of their federal economic-stimulus dollars to track the funds.

The news came as a relief to government leaders who were worried about satisfying strict accountability requirements under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to closely track spending and job creation.

In recent years, Colorado and other financially strapped governments have slashed employment rolls, depleting ranks of auditors and purchasing staffs. And Colorado’s central accounting system is too old and ill-equipped to document most of the $3.5 billion estimated to stream into the state during the next three years.

But the new guidance from Washington is “progress” toward replenishing jobs designed to police spending, said Mark Cavanaugh, director of the state’s economic-recovery team, during a meeting Wednesday.

“The bottom line is this: We’re not going to be getting additional funding for administrative costs,” he said. “But we can scrape off some of the (stimulus) dollars.”

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It’s not yet clear how many positions agency directors will need to fill. But that information, in addition to other stimulus-funded jobs, eventually will be posted on the state’s website as required by the stimulus bill.

Congress had given clear guidance to federal agencies to bolster the ranks of their inspectors general and other financial watchdogs. But states were left in limbo as the Office of Management and Budget took months to issue guidance. In the meantime, Colorado and other states reached out to members of Congress to see whether additional funding for increased staffing could be folded into another bill.

According to the memo from the OMB, states can obtain staffing money upfront instead of waiting to be reimbursed at the end of a stimulus program. Unlike other federal-grant recipients such as universities, state governments normally seek reimbursement. Given the stimulus bill’s audit requirements, states need to have the ability to obtain “necessary” resources earlier, the OMB memo said.

Still uncertain is what kind of accounting system Colorado will use to document the flow of stimulus dollars through federal, state and local agencies.

Colorado officials say it’s possible they will be able to participate in a federal pilot program under consideration that aims to develop a stimulus-dollar tracking system.

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