Feds to Scrutinize State Stimulus Spending | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Feds to Scrutinize State Stimulus Spending

Federal officials will train a close eye on how Mississippi spends its share of the federal stimulus package. At a summit for state agencies, county and municipal governments and businesses April 16, State Auditor Stacey Pickering said that the federal Government Accountability Office will monitor Mississippi's stimulus spending, and spending in 15 other states, for its effectiveness at creating and retaining jobs. Citing the example of federal Katrina relief funds, Pickering cautioned agency heads that citizens and federal officials want to see stimulus funds spent where they are most needed.

"The public has a huge expectation of each of us in this room," he said. "We've got a huge trust to protect."

Pickering, a Republican, betrayed some frustration with the stimulus package, calling its stringent accountability requirements an "underfunded mandate."

"There's no specific funds set aside for you or I to spend on accountability," Pickering explained.

Mississippi is slated to receive up to $2.8 billion from the stimulus package, which Congress passed in February as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The state will apply roughly $1.2 billion of that to fiscal stabilization for education and Medicaid.

The state Department of Education will receive $392 million to ensure that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program is fully funded for 2010 and 2011. MAEP levels funding for low-income school districts, and suffered a $76 million cut this year commensurate with cuts in other state programs.

Joey Deason, deputy director of the Mississippi Development Authority, told attendees that MDA will receive roughly $158 million, including $50 million for improving energy efficiency and advancing clean-energy projects in the state.

MDA will also administer $11 million for a program to address housing needs in Jackson. The funds can be used for demolition and redevelopment of abandoned or foreclosed houses, with the aim of serving people making less than half the median income of the surrounding area. In 2007, median income for Jackson was $32,982, while it was $38,260 for Hinds County.

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