NACo prepares counties for ARRA reporting deadline
Oct. 10 is the deadline for recipients of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to report how they have used the money so far, and the Washington-based National Association of Counties (NACo) is trying to prepare its members for the unprecedented event. NACo will hold a Webinar tomorrow to provide updated information on ARRA’s reporting requirements.
Any government or agency that has received a notice that they will receive ARRA funds as of Sept. 30 will be required to report their use of the funds to the federal government “whether they’ve spent only a dollar or all of it,” says NACo Deputy Director of County Services Stephanie Osborn. “In general, the components of the report are the funds that have been expended, to what public purpose — which is sort of a narrative piece — and then a key piece of it has to do with the extent to which jobs have been either created or retained as a result of those Recovery Act expenditures,” Osborn says.
One issue that NACo has been emphasizing in its educational efforts is that ARRA reporting will be a quarterly requirement in addition to other regular reporting requirements set in place by the individual federal agency that is managing the funds, Osborn says. “They may be quarterly, they may be biannual, they may be monthly,” she says. “You have to meet both sets of recording requirements.”
If federal reviewers find a recipient’s use of ARRA funds to be inappropriate, Osborn says, the consequences are unclear. “The federal government has recourse under existing law with regards to grants management if an entity was to spend the funds either outside of the agreed upon plan or illegally or so forth,” she says. “What we’ve been trying to help our members understand is that all of this information is going to be publicly available in a way that’s more accessible than typical circumstances [involving previous grant models], and so the real consequences are likely to be those that come upon them by the media and other investigative organizations that will be taking a microscope to the data that’s published on the Recovery.gov site.”
This first deadline for ARRA reporting will likely be a learning experience for the federal government, too, Osborn says. “The reporting process is complicated, and the federal government has never done this before, either,” she says. “For all we know, their system might crash.”