Praying for Yet More Guidance

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Recovery logoThe wait is over. The Office of Management and Budget has released the long-awaited new version of its reporting rules for recipients of Recovery Act funds. In addition to the 41-page memorandum, there is a 13-page list of programs covered by the rules and a 52-page supplement that describes the data model in excruciating detail. These guidance documents do not directly apply to contractors working directly with the federal government, but they do cover grant recipients (including state government agencies) and their sub-recipients and contractors.

The good news is that OMB has given greater clarity to the responsibilities of prime recipients when it comes to the flow of dollars and the creation of jobs. The primes must report detailed data on their own activities and those of their immediate sub-recipients, though they may delegate reporting to the subs. All the information will be collected through an input portal at www.federalreporting.gov and then will make its way to the Recovery.gov site that will provide for public access.

The not-so-good news is that the reporting system seems to extend only to first-level sub-recipients. That means that if a state agency (prime recipient) gives a contract to a company (sub-recipient) which then awards sub-contracts to various other firms, the data on those subcontractors might not get reported. The Coalition for An Accountable Recovery and States for a Transparent and Accountable Recovery have pushed and continue to push for full reporting all the way through the money chain down to a cutoff level of $25,000 or so. And we believe that all the employers in that chain should report directly rather than leaving it up to higher-level entities. It is encouraging that the Recovery Act data system will be set up in a way that could accommodate more comprehensive reporting.

When it comes to job reporting, the new OMB guidance seems to put all the responsibility on the prime recipient and is unclear on the extent to which the prime has to collect thorough data from all the sub-recipients. It also seems that OMB is not imposing strict rules on how employers measure the number of jobs retained as a result of stimulus funding-and is willing to let them lump together jobs created and jobs retained. It can be tricky to come up with exact measures of retained jobs, but there are risks in leaving it up to each employer to decide how to make the calculation.

There are more technical issues that the CAR coalition will comment on soon. Overall, the new OMB document is a step forward but still far from the goal of full transparency. Apparently, we need to pray for more guidance.

(crossposted on the STAR Coalition blog)

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