Stimulus money starting to flow in Colorado |

Stimulus money starting to flow in Colorado

Associated PressDenver, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado Economic stimulus money is starting to flow to Colorado. But officials say they’re still overwhelmed trying to figure out where it all goes.A state stimulus oversight board got briefings Thursday from the state departments of labor of transportation. They got an update on roads spending and enhancements to unemployment insurance.The panel of 12 business leaders and government officials, an advisory board set up by Gov. Bill Ritter, is not deciding how to spend the money. Instead, it is charged with making sure the money is spent properly.On Thursday, the board combed through spreadsheets on labor and roads spending, but officials say their work is just beginning.”We’ll work through this, but it has been a major time-consuming effort,” said the board’s chairman, Don Elliman, who is Colorado’s economic development director.Among the roadblocks to understanding the stimulus spending is the large amount of money coming, which state estimates now place at about $3 billion. That doesn’t include an addition $7 billion for which the state can compete. State officials at the briefing joked about going to bed at night with federal guides on the various spending programs.Elliman said Colorado’s job is further slowed by the fact it is one of 16 states designated by the federal government for closer-than-usual auditing by federal authorities. Also, board members are trying to field public questions about the stimulus spending.”Frankly, it’s a time-management issue,” Elliman said.The board chose two of the biggest areas to start looking at recovery spending Thursday: transportation and labor.The state is getting more than $300 million to extend unemployment benefits for people out of work, said Gary Esteson of the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment.Colorado could get an additional $127 million through federal incentives to update the way it gives unemployment benefits. The incentive money is set aside to try to update Depression-era unemployment benefit policies nationwide. The upgrades include a new way for the state to determine an applicant’s pay using the most recent fiscal quarter instead of a previous quarter, for example.Esteson assured the panel Colorado is on track to make all the upgrades and get the incentive.”We will get this money,” he said, explaining that a bill making some of the changes is pending in the state Senate.Money’s going out the door even faster at the Colorado Department of Transportation, which awarded its first contracts this week.The department has chosen $65.1 million worth of projects and plans to award $200 million worth of projects by this summer, said Herman Stockinger, legislative liaison for the department.The briefings were broad, with few questions from panel members. After more than an hour talking about highlights of the labor spending, Elliman cautioned members that there would be plenty of time for more details later.”If you really want to get in the weeds, you’re looking at a major time suck,” he quipped.___On the Net:

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