To date, about $2.6 billion has actually been spent throughout the state, doled out on everything from road construction to unemployment insurance and tax relief to Medicaid reimbursements.
Across Washoe County, nearly $16.5 million in stimulus funds have been dedicated to public works projects, public safety programs and other areas hit hard by budget cuts.
Most of the 20 grant awards received by county government have been passed down from state ARRA allocations, though federal reimbursements support the more than $5.4 million in local social services funding. About $1 million in eligible reimbursements remain to be earned.
On the local level, only about $3.6 million of some $11 million in direct stimulus funds have been spent thus far, according to local government reports.
Bureaucratic hold-ups, wage requirements, environmental regulations and contract bidding wars explain some of the possible delays in getting the money out the door, said Charles Harvey, state ARRA director.
Furthermore, the expiration dates for many of the stimulus funds lie two and three years from now.
Perhaps the single greatest intent of the stimulus is to get the unemployed working again, particularly in places like Nevada, where the recession exacted a savage toll. But precise figures for the number of new jobs created by ARRA funds are difficult to come by.
Harvey estimates the stimulus has directly supported between 2,300 and 2,600 jobs across the state. However, Sen. Harry Reid has said that some 29,000 jobs have been created or retained as a direct or indirect result of the stimulus, giving rise to a vast discrepancy and ammunition for critics.
In Washoe County, an estimated 178 jobs have come out of stimulus allocations thus far, including about 18 in the last quarter of 2010, according to local government reports. Engineers, environmental specialists, caseworkers and construction crews are among the list, most of which were retained at private subcontracting firms and nonprofits.
Federal stimulus money has also funneled through Sparks to the tune of $840,000, funding 10 environmental retrofit projects across the city, including the installation of solar panels at the police department and LED lights on yellow traffic signals.
City officials expect these projects to generate tens of thousands of dollars annually in energy cost savings.
“This wouldn’t have happened without stimulus money,” said Pete Etchart, a city engineer.
In addition, the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) will finish making upgrades to 315 streetlights located at major intersections across the city in June, using more than $200,000 in stimulus funds to do so.
Reducing energy consumption has become a priority for municipalities across the state, and many officials believe this could not be accomplished without stimulus money.
“This is not a typical pork-barrel project,” said Jim Poston, RTC project manager.
Whether any of these projects was worth the cost is subject to much debate. Critics believe the stimulus spending was a colossal misstep on the road to economic recovery. And even though Harvey reports no instances of fraud, waste or abuse, there has been persistent criticism about where some stimulus funds have been directed.
Harvey said that while he prefers to focus on the impact the stimulus has had on communities like Sparks, he recognizes that the success of the program will be determined at a later date.
“The long-term implications are yet to be seen,” he said.