Mississippi – July 8, 2009

The content below was excerpted from the Mississippi Appendix (PDF, 52 pages) of GAO's second bimonthly review of the Recovery Act.[1]

Contents

Use of Funds

GAO’s work focused on nine federal programs, selected primarily because they have begun disbursing funds to states, include new programs, or include existing programs receiving significant amounts of Recovery Act funds. Program funds are being directed to help Mississippi stabilize its budget and support local governments, particularly school districts, and several are being used to expand existing programs. Funds from some of these programs are intended for disbursement through states or directly to localities. The funds include the following:

Funds Made Available as a Result of Increased Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP)

As of June 29, 2009, Mississippi had drawn down almost $207 million in increased FMAP grant awards, which is over 89 percent of its $232 million grant awards to date. Mississippi officials reported that they are planning to use funds made available as a result of the increased FMAP to cover Medicaid’s increased caseload. The officials also noted that they are using freed up state funds to offset the state budget deficit.[2]

Highway Infrastructure Investment Funds

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) apportioned $355 million in Recovery Act funds to Mississippi, of which 30 percent was suballocated to metropolitan and other areas. As of June 30, 2009, the federal government’s obligation was $276 million, and Mississippi had awarded 44 contracts totaling $208.4 million for “shovel ready” projects, including highway resurfacing, bridge improvement, and new construction projects. For example, one project in Lauderdale County, near the Mississippi-Alabama border, involves construction of a new interchange.

U.S. Department of Education State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF)

Education has awarded Mississippi $321.1 million, or about 67 percent of its total SFSF allocation of $479.3 million. The state has not obligated any of these funds as of June 30, 2009. Mississippi plans to use these funds to restore state support to education budgets for primary, secondary, and higher education. For example, a University of Mississippi official said these funds would be used to avoid tuition increases and layoffs.

Title I, Part A, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965

Education has awarded Mississippi $66.4 million in Recovery Act ESEA Title I, Part A, funds or 50 percent of its total allocation of $132.9 million. The Mississippi Department of Education has determined allocations for local education agencies and released this information on June 25, 2009. Local education agencies we visited plan to use these funds to, among other things, provide professional development for teachers and purchase new classroom equipment.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Parts B and C

Education has awarded Mississippi $63.4 million in Recovery Act IDEA, Part B & C, funds, or 50 percent of its total allocation. The Mississippi Department of Education has determined allocations for local education agencies and planned to release this information by early July 2009. Local education agencies we visited plan to use these funds to purchase communication devices for students with disabilities and equipment for special education teachers. IDEA Part C is administered separately by the Mississippi Department of Health, which is planning to use the funds for personnel development and direct services for children.

Weatherization Assistance Program

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded $49.4 million in Recovery Act weatherization funding to Mississippi. Based on information available on June 30, 2009, DOE has allocated 50 percent ($24.7 million) to the state. The Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) has obligated all of these funds. MDHS also has started to disburse these funds to help reduce the energy bills of more than 5,000 low-income families across the state.

Workforce Investment Act Youth Program

The U.S. Department of Labor allotted about $18.7 million to Mississippi in Workforce Investment Act Youth Recovery Act funds. Mississippi has allocated about $15.9 million to the state’s four local workforce areas, based on information available on June 30, 2009. The local workforce areas’ summer youth programs were set to begin operating in late May and early June. Mississippi plans to create summer employment opportunities for about 6,000 youth using Recovery Act funds.

Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants

The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance has awarded $11.2 million in Recovery Act funding directly to Mississippi. Based on information available as of June 30, 2009, $57,072 of these funds have been obligated by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, which administers these grants for the states.[3] Grant funds coming to the state will provide funding for law enforcement, community corrections, as well as prevention and education programs.

Public Housing Capital Fund

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has allocated about $32.4 million in Recovery Act funding to 52 public housing agencies in Mississippi. Based on information available as of June 20, 2009, 18 of these agencies had obligated about $5.7 million, or 17.6 percent. At the 2 public housing agencies we visited (in Gulfport and Picayune), this money, which flows directly to public housing agencies, is being used for various capital improvements, such as modernizing kitchens and bathrooms; replacing plumbing, flooring, and entrance doors; and installing new roofs and siding.

Safeguarding & TransparencyBack to top

Mississippi has enhanced its accounting system to track Recovery Act funds that flow through the state treasury and the state central accounting system and is making changes to most of its software programs so that the use of the funds will be more transparent. Once software changes are completed, detailed information on the use of Recovery Act funds, including the total amount of Recovery Act funds received, the amount of funds obligated or expended for grants, a detailed list of all grants and activities (including projects under those grants), and the number of jobs created or sustained, will be available on the State of Mississippi Web site.

Assessing the Effects of SpendingBack to top

Mississippi agencies continue to express concern about the lack of clear federal guidance on assessing the effects of Recovery Act spending. For example, officials at the two local education agencies and three institutions of higher education we visited told us that they plan to use Recovery Act funds to avoid layoffs and hire new staff. These officials noted that they would like more specific reporting guidance—including how to track jobs created and sustained—from their state oversight boards. In addition, officials from the state oversight boards told us that they were expecting to receive additional guidance on reporting requirements from Education and the Office of Management and Budget and would share this guidance with their local education agencies and institutions of higher education. Officials from the two public housing agencies we visited in Mississippi also told us that they have not received specific guidance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regarding how to assess the effects of Recovery Act spending, such as the number of jobs created or retained.

Full July ReportBack to top

Recovery Act: States' and Localities' Current and Planned Uses of Funds While Facing Fiscal Stresses
GAO-09-829
Recovery Act: States' and Localities' Current and Planned Uses of Funds While Facing Fiscal Stresses (Appendixes)
GAO-09-830SP
  • [1] Pub. L. No. 111-5, 123 Stat. 115 (Feb. 17, 2009).
  • [2] The increased FMAP available under the Recovery Act is for state expenditures for Medicaid services. However, the receipt of this increased FMAP may reduce the funds that states would otherwise have to use for their Medicaid programs, and states have reported using these available funds for a variety of purposes.
  • [3] We did not review Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants awarded directly to local governments in this report because the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s solicitation for local governments closed on June 17; therefore, not all of these funds have been awarded.
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John K. Needham

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