Since its passage on February 17, 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been an extraordinary effort by a network of partners—federal, state, local, nonprofit and private sector—to provide Relief, Recovery and Reinvestment to the American people and the economy. At the outset, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden indicated that they would not be satisfied with business as usual.
“We've got to go above and beyond … the typical ways of doing business in order to make sure that the American people get the help that they need and that our economy gets the boost that it needs.” President Obama, March 12, 2009
“That’s why our goal must be to spend these precious dollars with unprecedented accountability, responsibility, and transparency. I’ve tasked my cabinet and staff to set up the kind of management, oversight, and disclosure that will help ensure that, and I will challenge state and local governments to do the same.” President Obama, February 14, 2009
“We have an obligation to the taxpayers of this nation to make sure their money is being used wisely, to make it accountable and transparent. We're going to ask of you a sense of diligence and transparency and responsibility as has not been asked before, because we've never made this kind of investment before. This is a big deal. Never before in the history of this country have the people been more able to see with such complete transparency how we're going to put their money to work, not just in this agency but particularly here.”
Vice President Biden, March 3, 2009
They wanted to find “new ways” for the government to work to meet the five key goals of the Act:
- To preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery.
- To assist those most impacted by the recession.
- To provide investments needed to increase economic efficiency by spurring technological advances in science and health.
- To invest in transportation, environmental protection, and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits.
- To stabilize state and local government budgets, in order to minimize and avoid reductions in essential services and counterproductive state and local tax increases.
These new ways recognized that Recovery Act funds were different from normal federal funds and were characterized by the following:
- Targeted: Funds were appropriated to more than 250 specific programs and were disbursed to provide immediate tax benefits, payments for health care, training, food assistance, and to undertake projects that would help the infrastructure and represent long term investments.
- Time Critical: Designed to spend out quickly, most Recovery Act funds had a statutory requirement to be obligated by September 30, 2010. Administration statements went a step farther, committing to having 70 percent of ARRA funds outlayed, including tax relief, by that same date.
- Transparent: For the first time, agencies were required to report on the status of obligations and outlays on a weekly basis, at the Treasury Account level. Recipients of ARRA funds subject to Section 1512 reporting were required to report quarterly on a wide variety of fields, not the least of which included direct jobs created or saved. In both cases, this data is published onRecovery.gov.
Recovery Act Case Program Overview
Throughout America, the Recovery Act was implemented by contractors and grantees of over 350,000 awards. These private sector, state and local government, and nonprofit participants, along with their Federal Government partners, managed the difficult task of putting funds to work to create jobs, help people, renew the infrastructure, and stimulate the economy.
Every quarter, these partners reported on Recovery.Gov about the activities they undertook. We wanted to make good use of this reporting and believed that there was a desire to tell the story of recovery in even greater detail. That is why we launched the Recovery Act Case Program: to produce a record of the new ways of work that federal agencies and their partners employed to implement the largest counter cyclical investment program ever undertaken.
Through the Recovery Act Case Program, partnering agencies were encouraged to bring forward their best examples of how the Recovery Act led to change in the ways that government does its work. These stories were then collected as a series of case studies ranging in scope from simple changes in administrative procedures that streamline a process, to discussions of fundamental changes in approach or process, such as the success Recovery.gov achieved by being the first major government system to operate in the cloud. These cases are now available on University of Washington’s Electronic Hallway as formal archive of the Recovery Act’s accomplishments.