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As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the stimulus package, states were required to set up websites in a specific format to explain to citizens how the money was spent.

The first look at how states have done has come out, and it isn't pretty.

According to a report by Good Jobs First, a national policy resource center for grassroots groups and public officials, promoting corporate and government accountability in economic development and smart growth for working families, most states are not doing a very good job so far at explaining how they're spending the money. On a scale of 1 to 100, the average of all the state scores for ARRA sites is only 28.2, and the median is 25, though scores specific to highway funding are slightly higher.

"Only six states score 50 or better for their ARRA website: Maryland (80), Colorado (68), Washington (63), West Virginia (60), New York (53) and Pennsylvania (50)," the group found. "Thirteen do so for their highway reporting, led by Maryland (75), Washington (73), Colorado (65), Nebraska (60) and California and New York (each at 58). Only four states (Colorado, Maryland, New York and Washington) score 50 or better on both measures."

Factors in each state's grade included:

  • Planned spending totals by broad categories (energy, housing, transportation, etc.) as well as more specific programs;
  • Data on the distribution of spending among the state’s counties (or other geographic divisions);
  • The inclusion of maps showing the location of the projects;
  • Descriptions of specific spending projects and the contracts associated with them;
  • Contract details, including dollar amounts, the name of the contractor and the text of the contract;
  • Data on the jobs created or retained by the project;
  • The status of the project (portion completed and expected duration).
  • Whether they include all ARRA project information (as opposed to having it spread out among various agency web pages)
  • How up to date that information is.

The report also gives states advice about information to include, as well as links to all the states' sites.

States that didn't do so well were quick to come up with explanations. Idaho, for example, which scored 28th, said its site would improve in October, when it got more information.

At the bottom, with a score of zero? Utah and....Illinois, the home state of President Barack Obama.

Illinois, however, pointed out that after the report's deadline of July 29, it had improved its site, which Good Jobs First acknowledged in a press release.

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