Stimulus Task Force Says Agencies Moving Forward Despite Contradictions

By: Geoff Pallay and Kevin Dietrich

Despite a lack of direction from federal officials, state agencies in South Carolina claim to be on track for complying with stimulus funding guidelines, the S.C. Stimulus Oversight, Accountability and Coordination Task Force reported Thursday.

“Frankly, it’s just shocking to me the continual conflicting guidance that’s coming from the federal government on this,” said S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, who co-chairs the group. “So what we’ve done is follow the best plan we can by putting into place the guidance we deem to be best.”

The task force was set up earlier this year by Gov. Mark Sanford to track the use of the estimated $2.8 billion in stimulus money heading to state programs and projects, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

More than $600 million in stimulus money has been doled out to South Carolina state agencies so far, with the bulk of it going to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Employment Security Commission and the Department of Social Services.

DHHS has received $372.5 million, the Employment Security Commission has gotten $93 million and the Department of Social Services has received $66.6 million.

Task force member Frank Fusco, executive director of the Budget and Control Board, said he believes there’s no reason any state agency participating in the stimulus program should not understand how the process works by this point.

“We’ve done everything we can to make sure everyone is aware of their responsibilities,” said Fusco. “If there’s an agency out there that doesn’t know what it’s supposed to do, it’s living under a rock.”

Eckstrom praised the task force members because to his knowledge the stimulus task force’s work hasn’t cost the state a single dollar.

“Other states are tapping into reserve funds or getting appropriations from their legislatures, but we’ve managed to do it without spending any extra money,” he said. “I’ve always said that if those funds are really meant to stimulate the economy, we’re not going to use them for administrative purposes.”

The Task Force meets on the fourth Thursday of each month. To track how stimulus money is being spent in South Carolina, go to: www.stimulus.sc.gov.

Nothing in the foregoing should be construed as an attempt to aid or hinder passage of any legislation. Copyright 2009. South Carolina Policy Council Education Foundation, 1323 Pendleton Street, Columbia, South Carolina 29201.

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