Federal funds trickle into state
By Nancy Remsen, Free Press Staff Writer
In the most recent accounting, Vermont had received $75.7 million in real money, not just promises, as a result of the federal economic-stimulus legislation.
That's about 10.4 percent of the $720 million the state expects to receive over two years from grants allocated by formulas, explained Tom Evslin, chief of the state's special office of economic stimulus and recovery.
Evslin said the $75.7 million only included money that passed through state government. It didn't count extra dollars for Pell grants for college students, small-business grants or income-tax cuts and tax credits.
Money under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has two purposes: help states avoid drastic cuts in services because they've experienced steep drops in revenues, and help invest in projects that spur economic activity and create jobs.
So far, Evslin said, most of the money Vermont has received - $71 million - helped the state cover the increasing cost of subsidized health care for low-income Vermonters. The remaining money paid for road and bridge projects, Evslin said. He expects that number to increase quickly now that construction season is in full swing.
Evslin noted there is a lag between the authorization of spending and the receipt of cash.
"In most cases you have to spend money in federal programs before you are reimbursed," he said.
Evslin and his small staff expect to turn their attention in the coming weeks to guiding the preparation of requests for money over and above the $720 million the state is allocated based on formulas. Rules are just out for two pots of money of which officials are keen for the state to win a share: funding for broadband Internet and for "smart grid" electric power projects.
Deadlines for applications are Aug. 6 for smart grid and Aug. 14 for broadband.
There will be stiff competition, Evslin predicted, but his office has been readying proposals for weeks. Each request, he said, "has to be the most attractive response that still works for the state."