Biden offers rosy outlook in first quarterly stimulus report

Ron Sachs/Landov
Federal agencies obligated more than $88 billion in the first 77 days of the economic stimulus effort, according to Vice President Joe Biden's first quarterly report to the president on Recovery Act spending.

The administration is making significant progress implementing the massive program, Biden said on Wednesday. "We remain ahead of schedule in most programs and, due to efficiencies and sound management, many projects are coming in under budget," he wrote in the report.

While $88 billion has been obligated, only $28.5 billion has been outlaid, or actually paid out. The administration has set a goal of outlaying 70 percent of the $787 billion stimulus by the end of 2010. The report noted that some programs, such as Medical Assistance Payments to states, can be outlaid quickly after obligation.

Medical assistance programs, along with other provisions of the act designed to provide fiscal relief to state and local governments, have "arguably" had the most immediate effect, the report said. For states, in particular, Biden wrote, the ability to draw down $15.7 billion of $25 billion in medical assistance funds has allowed them to avoid further cuts in budgets that already were under serious strain.

A number of broader programs, such as the development of high speed rail, require more extensive planning, and it will take longer before money is spent, the report stated. The fact that money has not yet been spent on a particular project does not, however, mean it is not benefitting the economy, according to a senior administration official.

"The report finds the anticipated funds are already having an effect on economic and job growth as private sector companies staff up to meet expected demand for their projects under the act, and state and local governments adjust spending plans as they receive and expect to receive additional funds," said the official, who asked not to be named.

The primary goal of the stimulus is to create jobs. Obama said he expected the Recovery Act to create or save between 3 million and 4 million jobs by the end of fiscal 2010. According to Biden, the effort has created or saved 150,000 jobs so far, but he noted that stimulus recipients will not provide their first numbers until Oct. 10.

Despite a lack of concrete data on job creation, Biden painted an optimistic picture for Obama.

"As the pace of Recovery Act spending increases, we anticipate that by the end of September 2010, there will be 3.5 million jobs in place that have been created or retained, and that we will have outlaid the $350 billion that you targeted, if not more," Biden wrote.

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