Ohio – July 8, 2009

The content below was excerpted from the Ohio Appendix (PDF, 40 pages) of GAO's second bimonthly review of the Recovery Act.[1]

Contents

Use of Funds

GAO's work focused on nine selected 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 targeted to help Ohio 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, Ohio had drawn down over $711 million in increased FMAP grant awards, which is more than 85 percent of the over $832 million received for the first three quarters of federal fiscal year 2009. Ohio is using funds made available as a result of the increased FMAP to off-set the state’s budget deficit which allows the state to maintain Medicaid eligibility, attempt to avoid reductions in services, and to assist the state in responding to rapid program enrollment growth, which is currently almost 20,000 new enrollees per month.  Officials also noted that the increased FMAP has allowed the state to retain the small population expansions that the state legislature authorized in 2008. These targeted expansions include pregnant women, foster care children, and disabled individuals returning to work.

Highway Infrastructure Investment Funds

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) apportioned $935.7 million in Recovery Act funds to Ohio. As of June 25, 2009, $384 million had been obligated for projects involving highway pavement, bridge, rail, and port improvements. For example, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) selected a project in Cuyahoga County to widen the ramp and replace the asphalt shoulders between two major interstate highways. Construction began on this project in early June 2009 and is expected to be completed by October 31, 2009.

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

Ohio expects to receive $1.79 billion in SFSF funds for state fiscal year 2010 and 2011 budgets. In the state's approved SFSF application to the U.S. Department of Education (Education), about 92.5 percent of Ohio's share of SFSF funds will go to education, including higher education, and 7.5 percent will go to other government services, such as the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.

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

Education has awarded Ohio $186.3 million in Recovery Act ESEA Title I, Part A, funds or 50 percent of its total allocation of $372.7 million. Ohio plans to make these funds available to local education agencies after the state budget passes, to help local districts build their long-term capacity to serve disadvantaged youth, for example, by providing professional development to teachers. For example, a Cleveland Municipal School District official said by using these funds, up to 200 teachers will be offered the opportunity to work full-time as mentors for students and professional development coaches for other teachers. These teachers must agree to retire or resign after 2 years, when the Recovery Act ends.

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

Education has awarded Ohio $232.8 million in Recovery Act IDEA, Part B & C, funds, or 50 percent of its total allocation of $465.5 million. Ohio plans to make these funds available to local education agencies after the state budget passes, to support special education and related services for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities. Cleveland Municipal School District and Youngstown City School District officials told us that they plan to use Recovery Act IDEA funds to emphasize professional development because (1) the money would be well spent and (2) continuing funding commitments could be avoided.

Weatherization Assistance Program

In March 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) allocated about $266.8 million for Ohio's Weatherization Assistance Program for a 3-year period. Based on information available on June 18, 2009, DOE has awarded Ohio approximately $133.4 million and Ohio has obligated about $20.3 million of these funds. Ohio plans to begin production activities in July 2009 to weatherize approximately 32,000 dwelling units. The Ohio Weatherization Training Center will train and certify weatherization contractors and inspectors.

Workforce Investment Act Youth Program

The U.S. Department of Labor has allotted Ohio about $56.2 million in Recovery Act funds for the Workforce Investment Act Youth program, and Ohio has reserved 15 percent of the funds for statewide activities. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services set an overall target for local areas to spend 70 percent of the funds by October 31, 2009. While state officials said that last summer 479 youth were served statewide using Workforce Investment Act funds, local areas planned to serve 14,205 youth this summer with Workforce Investment Act Recovery Act funds.

Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants

The Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance has awarded about $38 million directly to Ohio in Recovery Act funding. Based on information available as of June 30, 2009, none of these funds have been obligated by Ohio's Office of Criminal Justice Services, which administers these grants for the state.[2] Currently, Ohio is evaluating 540 local government project applications and expects to notify localities of their awards by July 31, 2009. Although OCJS is in the process of allocating state JAG funds to localities, some local awards directly from BJA have been made, according to officials at the City of Columbus Department of Public Safety. The City of Columbus is using $1.2 million of Recovery Act JAG funds to pay the salaries, from March 2, 2009 through December 31, 2009, of 26 police cadets. From March through June, the City paid the cadet salaries from operating budgets and expects to be reimbursed from the allocation they share with Franklin County.

Public Housing Capital Fund

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has allocated about $128.3 million in Recovery Act funding to 52 public housing agencies in Ohio. GAO visited three of these public housing authorities'Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, and the London Metropolitan Housing Authority'which received capital fund formula grants totaling approximately $44.3 million. These funds, which flow directly to public housing authorities, are being used for various capital improvements, including construction of new housing units, rehabilitation of long-standing vacant units, upgrading units to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, and replacing windows and doors. For example, the London Metropolitan Housing Authority plans to spend approximately $153,000 to replace the roofs on multiple public housing buildings.

Safeguarding & TransparencyBack to top

Ohio is in the process of refining its internal control processes to ensure that it can track and report on Recovery Act funding in accordance with federal and state laws. First, Ohio has developed a centralized Web-based hub to collect financial data, performance metrics, and other information on Recovery Act programs in the state. Second, the state is restructuring its internal control processes to ensure greater accountability for federal and state funds, including Recovery Act funds. Third, the state has a new State Audit Committee that among other things, is working to ensure consistent and speedy response to audit findings.

Assessing the Effects of SpendingBack to top

Ohio agencies are exploring ways to assess the impact of Recovery Act funds, but they continue to express concern about the lack of clear federal guidance. Some agencies are using existing federal program guidance on job creation, such as FHWA's Federal-Aid Highway Surface Transportation Program. Other agencies are waiting for additional guidance on how and what to measure to assess Recovery Act impact. Officials are concerned about how they are to assess jobs created and jobs saved. For example, ODOT officials told us that FHWA's guidance appears to provide only a monthly snapshot of employment information.

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] Although we highlight one example in Columbus of Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants awarded directly to local governments, we did not review these funds in this report because the Bureau of Justice Assistance's (BJA) solicitation for local governments closed on June 17; therefore, not all of these funds have been awarded.
GAO Contact
portrait of George Scott

George Scott

Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security

scottg@gao.gov

(202) 512-5932

portrait of of David Trimble

David Trimble

Acting Director, Natural Resources and Environment

trimbled@gao.gov

(202) 512-9338