Recovery Act Grants to Business and Some Issues in ARRA Recipient Reporting

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At the end of the last week, the Recovery Board released the final results of the first round of ARRA recipient reporting. On October 15 we had already gotten a preview of the data on direct federal contracts. In addition to providing a revision of that data on Friday, Recovery.gov posted spreadsheets summarizing some 116,000 reports from recipients of direct federal grants and loans (the list is so big it’s divided into three files). The amount paid out so far to these grant recipients is about $35 billion.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of the grant recipients are state and local government agencies-and, to a lesser extent, non-profit organizations. But buried in the lists are also some for-profit corporations. Since it is common to think of for-profits as the recipients of contract awards rather than grants, I thought it would be interesting to look at which companies managed to get themselves on the grants list.

Unfortunately, the Recovery.gov recipient spreadsheets don’t appear to have a field indicating whether a recipient is a for-profit. There is such a field, however, on USASpending.gov, the repository of data on all federal contracts and grants. On the advanced search page for grants, one can set the Recipient Category field to for-profits and the Business Fund Indicator field to ARRA.

And voilà: it shows that for-profits have received an astounding total of 26,738 ARRA grants from the federal government worth a total of $4.4 billion (this is the amount of the grants rather than the amount received). The largest amount is $241.2 million, which went to the for-profit University of Phoenix for Pell grants for students. Many of the other grants to for-profits fall into the same category. Since these are essentially pass-throughs, let’s focus on other types.

The second largest amount is $105.3 million to General Motors (which, thanks to its federal bailout, is almost a government entity). Its grant is part of the $2 billion program to subsidize the development of advanced batteries for electric cars.

Other energy grants on the list derive from the $3.4 billion included in ARRA for “fossil energy,” which is expected to be used mainly for industrial carbon capture projects. On the list of recipients is Hydrogen Energy California LLC (a joint venture of oil giant BP and mining giant Rio Tinto), which got a grant of $50 million for a hydrogen-powered electricity generating plant in California designed to capture most of its carbon emissions. The utility company Arizona Public Service got a $39 million grant for its project designed to test its algae-based carbon mitigation project with a coal-based gasification system.

Unfortunately, there are some significant discrepancies in names and amounts between Recovery.gov and USASpending. For example, on Recovery.gov, the DUNS number from the Hydrogen Energy California listing on USASpending shows up on a listing for which the recipient name is Carson Hydrogen Power LLC and the award amount is $308 million.

At the same time, Recovery.gov provides information on vendors that is not available on USASpending. For example, it shows that Progress Rail Services, a subsidiary of Caterpillar, got a grant of $68.6 million to rebuild a dozen locomotives.

The Recovery.gov data released on Friday also included a list of about 700 direct federal loans. The largest of these went to a for-profit: a $535 million loan from the Department of Energy to Solyndra Inc. to build a thin-film solar photovoltaic manufacturing facility. For some reason, it is missing from the USASpending database.

Some of the discrepancies between Recovery.gov and USASpending.gov are a matter of timing, but it would be a lot easier to reach definitive answers about the business share of ARRA grants and loans–and many other questions–if those discrepancies could be reduced. It would also be helpful if some of the features of USASpending, such as the ability to search by the recipient’s tax status, were made a part of the Recovery.gov data.

Reposted from the STAR Coalition website.

One Response to “Recovery Act Grants to Business and Some Issues in ARRA Recipient Reporting”

  1. OMB Moves to Fix ARRA Snafus « Says:

    […] Demonstrates systemic or chronic reporting problems […]

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