(CNSNews.com) - The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported last month that 78 percent of the $787 billion economic stimulus law had not been spent by the end of fiscal year 2009. But Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said it is "nonsense" to say that his department has not spent its stimulus money because most of it "is out the door.”
“I’m going to speak for the DOT money which is $48 billion--75 percent of it is out the door,” LaHood told CNSNews.com. “If you look at the way--all the airport money is out the door and oversubscribed and came under bid, so we not only spent a billion dollars which was in the bill, we spent $1.1 billion dollars because the bids came in less than we anticipated.”
“On the highway side, we’ve obligated, we know there are at least 10,000 projects and so we’ve checked our boxes and now it’s up to the states to hire contractors to do the work,” he said. “On the transit side, 90 percent of the money is out the door and transit districts all over the country are buying buses, starting light rail and using the money.”
The secretary said the only economic stimulus money that has not been spent is the $8 billion for a high speed rail system, which will be announced early next year, and several Tiger grants to be awarded for transportation projects, which total $1.5 billion.
“So, this notion that our money hasn’t been spent is nonsense,” said LaHood. “I have been to 32 states and 70 cities and I’ve seen orange cones and orange barrels and thousands of people working around America building America’s infrastructure. So, our money is out the door. It is being spent. Thousands of people have gone to work and we’ll finish up these projects next year.”
“This was not a 10-month program,” LaHood said. “It was an 18-month program, and as winter comes on around the country, these projects will – that have been suspended -- will start up again. People will go back to work.”
The Department of Transportation received $48.1 billion in funds from the $787-billion economic stimulus package. The DOT reportedly distributed $38.6 billion of its stimulus allocation through existing funding programs.
The DOT states in its Agency-Wide Recovery Act Plan online that, “While these funds are distributed using methods that were already in place before the Recovery Act, the Act also subjects many of them to ‘use or lose’ provisions that ensure recipients spend funds, put people to work and contribute to our economic recovery quickly.”
The GAO has reported that 46,593 jobs were “created or retained” by the transportation funding through the economic stimulus bill, officially called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Feb. 13.
“Projects will be finished and we will have made announcements about high speed rail and our Tiger grants, which will be out the door next year,” LaHood told CNSNews.com. “So, look, I don’t – when it comes to DOT, I don’t care what anybody says. I know what’s going on and if you look on Recovery.gov, you can see, specifically, state by state the number of projects that have been funded, how many people have been employed and we’ve worked long and hard on this.”
“Look, I make no apologies,” he said. “Our money is out the door and people have worked all summer and many of these people were on unemployment in January, February and March and they had good paying jobs throughout the summer and fall. Now, because of winter, they have to suspend. They’ll be back to work next year. We’ve done our job at DOT.”