New York (AP) - Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday defended the pace of federal stimulus funding, warning that hasty spending on wasteful projects could jeopardize the entire program.
"There's been some criticism that we've not gotten enough money out so far," Biden said. "Well look, since I'm the guy who was put in charge of it, I want to make sure in the first 100 days we do it right."
Biden made the comments at a hearing with small business owners, many of whom said they'd secured credit from banks and had been able to hire new employees as a result of the stimulus funding. Biden pointed to other ways the plan had begun helping to restore the weak economy, including an $8,000 tax credit offered to new home buyers.
Biden said spending on infrastructure projects like roads and bridges would speed up in the coming months. But he warned the key to maintaining public trust in the program was accounting for how the money had been spent.
"The one thing that could undermine this whole effort is if you'd read stories in the last 100 days about how this money is being wasted in the tens of billions of dollars," Biden said, adding that, "you're going to see some real pace on the ball" as construction contracts around the country are finalized.
President Obama signed the massive, $787 billion stimulus plan into law in February and tapped Biden to oversee its implementation. A core tenet of the program was to spend the money quickly to jolt the economy and put millions of people back to work.
But with so much money at stake, Biden said some waste was inevitable and that a team of federal auditors had already uncovered problematic projects. "People are being scammed already," Biden said, promising to expose abuses whenever they were detected.
At the same time, Biden made clear that the stimulus money was not intended to solve every problem facing state and local government and that the huge spike in federal assistance was not going to continue indefinitely.
Pressed by a local county legislator on whether the federal government would increase funding to help ensure wastewater quality, Biden said flatly, "It won't happen."
He acknowledged, "Communities are saying, 'Hey Joe, we don't want you going away.' What everyone has to understand is we are not making a fundamental shift in responsibility to deal with local problems."
Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday defended the pace of federal stimulus funding, warning that hasty spending on wasteful projects could jeopardize the entire program.