Hennepin County reports ‘mixed results’ from federal stimulus funding

A report from Hennepin County that looks at the impact of federal stimulus spending there says that while it preserved or created jobs, there were few shovel-ready projects and not much was allocated to transportation or infrastructure projects.

Phil Eckhert, director of Hennepin County Housing, Community Works and Transit, which coordinated distribution of funding for county projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act , said:

“Overall, the results of the Recovery Act appear mixed. Even though there are continuing differences of opinion among economists about the Recovery Act’s results at the national level, our report looks at the ways Recovery Act funding helped people right here in Hennepin County.”

County managers were interviewed about the stimulus funding and gave these findings:

  • Nearly all managers said their project preserved or created jobs and promoted economic recovery. 
  • Construction project managers said hundreds of workers found positions at their sites. 
  • Youth employment managers found summer jobs for more young people. 
  • City and county project managers were able to keep public safety officers on patrol who might otherwise have been laid off. 
  • Most managers said their projects helped those most impacted by the recession, including construction workers, the unemployed and residents with low income. 
  • Nearly half the managers said investments made by their projects in transportation, environmental protection and other infrastructure will provide long-term economic and environmental benefits.
  • Many public buildings were made more energy-efficient, preserving public infrastructure and providing cost savings into the future. 

County officials say many lessons were learned in the stimulus implementation: 

  • There were few truly “shovel ready” projects. While economic benefits did materialize, it took 12 to 18 months for plans to gear up. 
  • The modest proportion of funds (about 10 percent of the federal outlay) allocated to transportation and other infrastructure improvements limited opportunities for long-deferred, job-rich construction projects, and consequently diminished public evidence of success from what might otherwise have been achieved. 
  • More private-sector companies participated in stimulus projects in Hennepin County than governmental agencies, community nonprofits or educational institutions. Only about 10 percent of Hennepin recipients were governmental. 
  •  Given the enormity and complexity of the program, spending three-quarters of a trillion dollars promptly, accurately and transparently was no small undertaking, Hennepin County followed all requirements without major errors, but it took time to organize and execute according to federal standards.

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