As conversations continue to advance about a “jobs bill” (not to be confused with a “second stimulus” in any way), there are a lot of ideas floating around out there about what should be funded and how. But probably the biggest criteria is when, as in “as soon as possible;” the long timeline of Recovery Act fund distribution is not going to be tolerated for this go around. But, let’s not throw away the baby with the bathwater!
One of the great things about the interest in Recovery Act funding is that people have put some time and effort into creating applications for a wide variety of priority projects. So many, in fact, that the Recovery Act can’t fund all of them. For example, for the $1.5 billion in TIGER grant funding through the Department of Transportation, they received 1,380 applications totaling $56.5 billion. What happens to that $55 billion in potentially worthy projects? Nothing…unless a jobs bill comes along and is looking to quickly infuse money into the economy in infrastructure projects. In such a case, you have the opportunity to – as Bill McSherry likes to refer to it – “move the line from here to here.” That is, instead of funding the top 10, you fund the top 20. That way, you have no delay in creating a new grant application, no delay in waiting for people to apply for it and no delay in needing to vet the project. Cool.
Of course, the “McSherry Line Move” works in any area. Department of Commerce got 2,200 applications requesting nearly $28 billion in funding in response to a $3 billion RFP for broadband projects. And I know there are some very disappointed biorefinery folks.
Last point on this. It’s not just about the Recovery Act and the jobs bill. There’s the FY 2010 and FY 2011 appropriations process, the reauthorization of SAFETEA-LU, etc. So let’s not throw away these funding applications. The federal government has a great list of great projects to fund, and you might be able to significantly improve the speed with which you get money out if you focus on whittling that list down as new money becomes available.