Tracking the stimulus

ProPublica, a public journalism site, has taken data on the economic stimulus spending that should’ve made more accessible and understandable, and made it more accessible and understandable.

One of the things it reveals is the disparity in spending from county to county.

For example, on a per capita basis, these counties are getting the least stimulus money:

Unemployment Rate
Lake of the Woods
Lac Qui Parle

These counties are getting the most on a per capita basis. Note: I’ve taken Ramsey County out of the list because the system puts statewide projects in the county where the state capital is.

Unemployment Rate
Yellow Medicine
Big Stone

The stimulus plan is, by definition, a jobs and economic development plan. But as you can see by the charts, the big winners on a per capita basis also have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the state. Is that as a result of the stimulus? No. The unemployment rates for all of these counties have tracked the statewide average.

How is it that Lincoln County has attracted so much money? A rural water project intended to connect 800 users to a public water supply. Many of the consumers are farms.

  • Sue Vizecky

    Lincoln County’s unemployment rate is so low because we have no or very little industry out here. Most of our employers are schools, goverment or hospitals which were already at bare bones services before this big recession started. We are also a county of senior citizens and low income. I don’t think it fair that you compare how the money is per capital and not look at the demographics of the area. Instead we should be glad these people applied for the stimulas to help with the rural water supply to our area. Just like it costs larger towns to complete these projects it costs us the same amount of money and yet it provides us with a way to keep people out here an maybe someday help to attract industy to our area. Remember we were already a depressed econmony before the rest of the state was. .

  • Bob Collins

    One of the problems in tracking the stimulus is people consider it an attack on the value of a project or the worth of an area.

    An example. Earlier today I asked a congressman’s office how many jobs would be created by the three quarters of a million dollars in stimulus money that is being sent to two Native American reservations for bus service. The response didn’t have a number but pointed out the need for older people to get to their doctors. But, of course, that’s not the issue. The issue is the effectiveness of the stimulus bill to create a pile of new cash into the economy, that would return much more than the original investment.

    It’s important to remember that we were invited BY THE GOVERNMENT to check how the money was being spent AND, moreover, how many jobs are being created.

    Whether having water for the crops is good or bad isn’t really the point. The point is whether the stimulus is STIMULATING something, not whether the program creates services that someone needs.

    It was the Congress, not me, who inserted the language into the original stimulus bill, that required the sponsors of a project to indicate how many jobs would be created or saved by the project.

    The question isn’t whether hooking up 800 more farms/people to water is a good or bad idea. The question is how many jobs will be created — and soon — with — in this case — $30 million.

  • Danna MacKenzie

    To see a balanced view of the projects referred to in the above list in relationship to jobs created, we also need to look at how much of the money being granted in those counties is actually being spent in the same place. Many of the projects on the list are in fact employing contractors and buying materials from other areas of the state and the country that do have higher unemployment rates.