Recovery.gov is an official federal site providing information about Recovery Act spending and providing a channel for reporting abuse. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed in 2009 and allocated nearly eight hundred billion dollars for funding. The recovery.gov web site is intended to help track where that money is spent.
Every quarter recovery award recipients report on spent money. Over five hundred thousand jobs have reportedly received funding from this legislation. See it on a map discussed in our section called Favorite Feature.
As a 2014 update, we checked the site for total number of jobs created since enactment of the law but could only find the number for the last quarter of 2013, which was 63,115.
The most interesting thing about this website is the ability to view recovery information by the zip code of your neighborhood. Doing this will present a map of your neighborhood with icons indicating how money has been spent. The goal of providing this information is to foster transparency and honesty. A second primary purpose of this website allows for the reporting of potential fraud, waste and abuse. Methods of reporting can be done electronically, via telephone, by fax, or by written letter. You are strongly protected in the case of whistle-blowing.
Though it’s no longer possible to access the website for the Recovery Act some “big picture” data is available. For example, the overall cost of the program, originally projected to be $787 billion, ended up being closer to $831 billion. It’s hard to say what the overall impact of the program has been as politics creeps into efforts to objectively assess the program. Though it had many shortcomings it is probably safe to say that unemployment was lower in 2010 that would have been were it not for the Recovery Act. For some more detailed information about where money was spent and what opportunities still remain available you can learn more in our article about the Federal Business Opportunities website.
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Update January 2018
Well now recovery.gov is truly gone – you no longer even get a message saying “page not found.” It is claimed that this is in keeping with the original plans for the site, though some are disappointed that the information is not accessible even though the program is over. Others are not concerned at all since they claim that the extent of inaccuracies made the information not terribly useful. The reason for the fuzziness of the data is attributed to the fact that results were self-reported by recipients. Sadly, those receiving lots of money were not too adept at reporting information. Some reported pay raises as new jobs. Others misreported the size of their contracts. One manufacturer said they got $1.4 billion when the actual amount was 10.4 million. Some reported thousands of new jobs, not mentioning that the jobs only lasted for five months.
Update August 2017 recovery.gov is now defunct; if you try to go to the url you will get a “page not found” message. This is in keeping with what was projected and announced for the site. Interestingly, information about this site is now part of a “Collection” maintained by something called CyberCemetery. The Cybercemetery says that it gives access to the public to “defunct web sites and other publications of U.S. government agencies and commissions.” It provides information by subject, identified in a list of Keywords such as Hurricane Sandy, government transparency, fiscal oversight and other topics. We believe you will find more useful information relevant to the recovery act on sites like our review of fbo.gov.
Update April 2017 We don’t know but it may be that information about where the Recovery money went is hard to find because it was not as successful as it was supposed to be. Some say that’s because it wasn’t big enough but it appears the problem was really in its design For example, the biggest “giveaway” was the 116 billion dollar tax credit awarded to the middle class. But that money didn’t get to the consumer in one big chunk. Instead it was meted out gradually, paycheck by paycheck, with an average increase per check of about $10. And that amount was apparently too small to stimulate spending. The administration insisted on emphasizing all the “shovel ready” projects that would create new jobs but most of those never materialized.
Update December 2016 Did the Recovery Act create lots of new jobs? Hard to tell as the numbers constantly change, and we know that the labor participation rate (the number of people working as a percent of those able to work) has been the lowest in history ins spite of stimulus projects. Whenever job numbers were reported over the years many were challenged by those checking the results. At any rate the program is over, the Obama era is drawing to a close (as of this writing in December 2016) and you can no longer get data on recovery.gov. You can, however, still get some of the information about what money went where on the government website about federal business opportunities.
News September 2016 Please note that if you try to go to recovery.gov you will get a message that the server can't be found or something similar to that. The government is no longer making it easy - or in some cases even possible - to see where the money authorized by the Act has been spent or where opportunities still exist. You can still find those opportunities though – you just have to try a little harder. These opportunities will primarily be for businesses. See the May update below:
Update May 2016: There appears to be no effort being made to provide a centralized site where information about the Recovery and Reinvestment Act spending. There are sites that provide related information. For instance, if you’re looking for government contracting business you can find recovery spending recipients. But you must be a registered user of the site – see our review of the Federal Business Opportunities site.
Update February 2016: Well it looks like the time has come: the Recovery Board has ceased operations. That was always its plan, but it was not expected to remove all information from the website. Until just recently you could still access some of the reports but now we are having difficulty even accessing the site. So sadly - and perhaps surprisingly, it appears that promise of transparency and accountability as now disappeared – and we can't look back on where $800 billion in taxpayer money has ended up. They claim that because they decided it was too expensive to renew a license with D&B, it is now impossible for the information even to be available to the government. Some members of Congress are understandably irate and would like to change the situation. So – stay tuned and we'll keep you informed as to the availability of this information.
Update September 2015: The time is fast approaching when the government is going to stop providing some of the information it shows on this site. Most notably, it will not provide the map that we like so much. It now lets you take a look at your own state, town, even zip code (!) to see what recovery money has been awarded and where. We believe that when the Recovery accountability and Transparency Board goes away in late September 2015, that info will disappear too. So if you’re curious go check it out soon.
Update August 2015: Though some information is being removed (see below), there is still lots of good information to check out on this site. If you click the big green check button at the bottom you will find some valuable links. One actually lets you look for a job; one provides information about government contracts that are out for bid; and one tells you how to apply for a federal grant. There's also a somewhat amusing (though not complimentary) Twitter feed – mostly from people with complaints about not having received a big chunk of cash themselves. Beware unrealistic expectations!
Earlier 2015 Update: Be aware that as of Sept. 30 of 2015 the recovery.gov website will no longer be showing recipient information to the extent that it does now. Unfortunate since it's one of the best features of the site. But for the next nine months you can still check it out and make use of the data, as discussed below:
Because it's our favorite feature, we had to highlight the map views by zipcode of recovery spending. In this view you can see markers for all local recipients. Clicking on a marker highlights the number of recipients and the amount given. In this case Lyncean Technologies received $2.5 million dollars. We can also see that no jobs were added from this funding.
There are three award types: contracts, grants, and loans. Contracts generally require work for the government. Grants are given for funding in specific areas. And loans often have better interest rates than can be gotten from banks. In the highlighted example the company received a grant for its work. You'll notice that the majority of funding goes to public services such as schools, cities, and community organizations. If your company does not fit into one of these categories you may still be eligible to receive funding.
Also remarkable are the ways this data is made available to you. This web site has a lot of great diagrams and different visualizations for data. These visualizations increase the effectiveness of communicating how money is spent. If you're looking to do data analysis, this is a great service.
So here's a great, current, effective web site. Does it have any drawbacks? Well in case you were looking for applications, this website won't help you. To that end we feel the name is misleading. A better name might have been TrackRecoverySpending.gov. Clearly, businesses are awarded millions of dollars in grant money but this web site will not help you apply for any of it.
Also clear from their maps, recipients are generally not individuals. A random sampling indicated that institutions for education most commonly received funding. If you've ever wondered how your school can offer loans and scholarships, well, now you know. The government is subsidizing these institutions for your benefit. A better place to look for funding may be locally as this money is provided through “middle-men” institutions.
If you found this article useful, you may also want to discuss and learn about other websites on the internet.