W.Va., others ready for fed stimulus disclosures

AP News
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Posted: Dec 21, 2009 10:33 AM

The Manchin administration and West Virginia's other recipients of federal stimulus dollars are gearing up for the next batch of reports meant to detail how they've spent the money and created or saved jobs.

While the final numbers won't be published until the end of January, state and federal officials expect to review figures from more than a thousand public and private sector beneficiaries during much of the month.

The initial round of reporting counted just more than 2,400 jobs retained or created between February's passage of the massive legislation and the end of September. They were linked to around $191.8 million from West Virginia's estimated $1.8 billion share of the stimulus.

The jobs claims came from 275 of the more than 1,300 stimulus recipients _ state, county and local agencies as well as hospitals, nonprofit groups and private businesses _ whose disclosures made up West Virginia's report.

State government offices and programs accounted for around 1,550 of West Virginia's jobs total, nearly two-thirds. But a review by The Associated Press suggests problems with some of the other jobs claims behind West Virginia's tally.

A Head Start program boasted 145 jobs, for instance, but also said the stimulus funding paid for 2.2 percent cost-of-living allowance increases and did not create or save jobs.

A federal work study program at Marshall University, meanwhile, accounted for 11 jobs but also reported that the slots were planned but not awarded before Sept. 30.

Gov. Joe Manchin's stimulus coordinator, Danny Scalise, is standing behind the administration's portion of West Virginia's figure. He said each of those jobs reflects a full-time-equivalent position.

"The state is not including COLA in its figures," Scalise said. "These are direct jobs."

The administration's share of the jobs tally includes:

_ 274 youths hired statewide over the summer for Workforce Investment Act programs;

_ 251 workers for various Division of Highways projects around the state;

_ 226 school-related positions, including teachers, administrators, bus drivers and academic coaches for state special education programs;

_ 155 workers for contracts on projects meant to provide or improve clean drinking water.

Scalise noted that the jobs claimed are largely temporary, reflecting the nature of the funding.

Besides the youths summer programs, 63 of the jobs came from a six-week effort to help rural and low-income children. Another 30 jobs, for instance, came from a Weirton paving project that lasted about a month.

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"We're trying to avoid the funding cliff with the stimulus money," Scalise said.

Critics have seized on several of the jobs disclosures, both in West Virginia and other states, that list jobs in congressional districts that do not appear to exist. While West Virginia has three U.S. House districts, some of the jobs were reported for such districts as the 12th and 54th.

The AP reviewed the claims of "phantom" districts nationwide. It found that while entities filled out their disclosure reports incorrectly in a number of cases, the significance of that had been overstated and in some instances fabricated.

The errors in West Virginia's disclosures appear to reflect the districts of recipients of job-fueling stimulus funds that are not based in the state. They instead hail from such places as the 12th district in Pennsylvania, and California's 54th district.

Scalise said state agencies avoided those mistakes, which have since been addressed on the disclosure Web site for the stimulus.

"State agency money was spent in West Virginia," he said. "I'm proud that we had as few errors as we did."