Monitoring the Economic Stimulus Money Using Online Databases

To facilitate disclosure of how the $787 billion stimulus package will be spent, President Obama recently appointed the inspector general of the Interior Department, Earl E. Devaney, to chair the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board.  To ensure that the spending is well accounted for, the Board has put together the web site as a public resource to follow the money.  While the eventual goal is to allow the public to track spending and results for individual projects, some useful information is already available through the site. The site publishes all Agency Weekly Reports required from federal agencies receiving Recovery Act funds, which details how much the agencies are spending on individual projects.  Each report includes a summary of overall agency Recovery Act spending, major agency actions (both past and planned) and an attached spreadsheet itemizing spending on specific projects.

The site provides a helpful index to State Recovery Sites, which serves as a starting point for learning more about local projects. also includes a useful overview with the following information:

  • A timeline with past and anticipated milestones in the recovery plan.
  • A newsfeed of related information.
  • A break down of each area the money will be spent nationally and locally.
  • Jobs created or saved in each state.

As projects are approved, they will be updated on the web site.  Devaney, who has been allotted $84 million to coordinate this oversight effort through September 2011, claims that all spending outcomes will be available:

  • "The good, the bad and the ugly will all be on that web site."  (New York Times, "A Zealous Watchman to Follow the Money," March 10, 2009)

However, some remain skeptical that the government will achieve complete transparency.  Sites such as have been compiled to document similar information.  Here, people can:

  • Research proposed projects.
  • Vote on whether they believe the project is essential.
  • Edit information about the project on a Wiki.
  • Submit comments about the project.

The economic recovery is still in the early stages so check the web sites often as they are updated frequently.  For more about the responsibilities of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, see page 172-188 of the Act.