As I was noting in one or another of recent posts (here, here, and here) I haven’t spent as much time writing as I had earlier this year. One of the reasons is that I’ve been chasing money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for the community I serve. It has proven much more difficult than I would have thought – and certainly more difficult than those critics who think we’ve missed the boat in “filling out an application for federal stimulus money” would have you believe.
So far we have actually filed one application (all done electronically) for funds under the Department of Justice’s COPS Hiring Recovery Program. We are working on a joint application for Recovery Act JAG (Justice Assistance Grant) funds, will be indirectly benefited by funds received by the state and county through other various federal agencies and programs, and are looking at a few other possibilities. While a lot of effort has been put into transparency and accountability (both of which are good things), information about individual programs has often been hard to come by, agency sites are not always very clearly laid out in identifying Recovery Act funds, information about many programs has not yet been released, and application timeframes are often quite short (all of which are not so good).
Another snag we’ve run into is the notion that projects have to be “shovel ready.” Ordinarily we do project planning and engineering only to a point of making the “go-no go” decision, but don’t actually do the final project engineering until after bonding authority and/or financing has already been secured. This means we don’t have a lot of projects just sitting around in a can ready to go, just waiting for someone to throw money at us. Without bond approval or other financing it just wouldn’t make sense to spend tens or hundreds of thousands or, in some cases, millions of dollars on construction drawings for something we might never build. So, “shovel ready” makes for a nice sound bite, but doesn’t translate very well into actually putting money to work in a short period of time – not when it comes to infrastructure and facilities, anyway.
In any case, we’ll keep at it.