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Group ranks sites that let folks track stimulus spending

Washington fares well, but Idaho found lacking

Let’s say you want to know how much federal economic stimulus money has shown up in your county.

On Washington’s economic recovery Web site, a couple of clicks on an interactive map and this answer pops up: So far, Spokane County has received $49.5 million, including $26 million for education.

Or you want to know how many jobs will be created when the state uses $2.4 million in stimulus money to repave U.S. Highway 395 from the Spokane County line to Loon Lake. The answer: 25.

Every state has 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’s main site ranked among the top three in the nation, while its transportation site was second.

“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.

Idaho didn’t fare as well, tying for 28th for its main recovery Web site. But the state ranked ninth for its transportation site, which includes information such as who’s getting the contracts on stimulus-funded highway projects.

The report praised Washington for providing such information as county-by-county breakdowns, numbers of jobs created and project details. Idaho was downgraded for lacking that data.

But Wayne Hammon, head of Idaho’s Division of Financial Management, said Idaho plans to add all that information in October.

“The data we’re using to drive that portion of the Web site is the reports that the state agencies will start filing with the federal government Oct. 1,” he said.

Glenn Kuper, communications director for the Washington Office of Financial Management, said the idea was to give people the information they would most want. That’s the reason for the interactive county map; links for organizations or agencies that have projects they think might be eligible for money; and a button for individuals suffering hard times and wondering how the stimulus could affect their benefits. All are displayed prominently on the Web site’s main page.

There’s also a “Follow the Money” link to a detailed list of projects, and a chart showing how much money overall is coming to the state and how much has arrived and been spent.

Lee said if Idaho posts the additional data in October, it’ll likely see its ranking improve.