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Posts tagged: Economic stimulus

‘Room for improvement’ for stimulus sites

Every state has now created a “transparency” Web site to allow residents to track federal economic stimulus money, but according to a report by a good-government group, some sites are better than others. Washington ranked among the top three in the nation, while Idaho tied for 28th for its overall site and ranked 9th for its transportation site.  “Overall, there’s room for improvement for a great majority of states,” said Michele Lee, spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based Good Jobs First, a research group that developed the “Show Us the Stimulus” report.

Wayne Hammon, head of Idaho’s Division of Financial Management, noted that much of the data Idaho was knocked for lacking, including county-by-county breakdowns of spending, is scheduled to go up in October, when state agencies start submitting reports to the federal government. Lee said if Idaho posts the additional data in October, it’ll likely see its ranking from the group improve. That’s what Illinois did, after the state - President Barack Obama’s home state - took an embarrassing last place in the report’s initial findings, scoring a zero. “The state went into action and has been very active in changing their Web site so that it can be better,” Lee said. “Now their score is tentatively at 75 (out of 100), and it’s one of the better ones.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, which includes links to the Idaho and Washington sites.

Stimulus money arrives to help restart stalled affordable housing development

Affordable housing projects planned or in construction across the country saw their financing threatened when the recession killed the market for low-income housing tax credits, which are the nation’s main funding method for low-income housing development. Now, federal economic stimulus money is rolling in to help bridge that gap. U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan last week released $2.25 billion in stimulus money to “jump start” as many as 1,000 stalled affordable housing projects across the nation. Washington got $43 million, and Idaho got $8.75 million.

“It’s significant funding,” said Bob Peterson, tax credit manager for the Washington Housing and Finance Commission. “Investment has dropped off in Washington state.” Developers of low-income housing typically sell the federal tax credits to help finance their developments. But as the housing market dropped in the past two years, the value of the credits plummeted. Peterson said two years ago, investors routinely were paying 95 cents on the dollar for the credits; now it’s down to as low as 65 cents. The economic stimulus money will come in the form of grants to close that gap; both Idaho’s and Washington’s housing finance agencies are now reviewing competitive applications for the money, with decisions due within the next one to two months. Though an Idaho Housing and Finance Association spokeswoman said IHFA doesn’t know how many projects are stalled in Idaho, Washington has identified at least 10, and a joint effort by four Spokane churches to provide more affordable housing in that city could be among the projects to benefit from the new funds. You can read my full story here in today’s Spokesman-Review.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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