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Highlights

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) requires recipients of funding from federal agencies to report quarterly on jobs created or retained with Recovery Act funding. The first recipient reports filed in October 2009 cover activity from February through September 30, 2009. GAO is required to comment on the jobs created or retained as reported by recipients. This report addresses (1) the extent to which recipients were able to fulfill their reporting requirements and the processes in place to help ensure data quality and (2) how macroeconomic data and methods, and the recipient reports, can be used to assess the employment effects of the Recovery Act. GAO performed an initial set of basic analyses on the final recipient report data that first became available at www.recovery.gov on October 30, 2009; reviewed documents; interviewed relevant state and federal officials; and conducted fieldwork in selected states, focusing on a sample of highway and education projects.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Management and Budget 1. To improve the consistency of FTE data collected and reported, we recommended in November 2009 that OMB clarify the definition and standardize the period of measurement for the FTE data element in the recipient reports.
Closed - Implemented
In its updated December 18, 2009 guidance on reporting Recovery Act job estimates, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) took three steps to align its guidance with GAO's recommendation. First, OMB changed the full-time equivalent (FTE) calculation to standardize the period of measurement. Second, OMB stated in the guidance that Recovery Act recipients will no longer be required to make a subjective judgment on whether jobs were created or retained as a result of the Recovery Act. Instead, recipients will more easily and objectively report on jobs funded with Recovery Act dollars. Lastly, in this same guidance, OMB required federal agencies to submit guidance documents to OMB for review and clearance to ensure consistency between federal agency guidance and guidance released by OMB.
Office of Management and Budget 2. OMB should work with the Recovery Board and federal agencies to reexamine review and quality assurance processes, procedures, and requirements in light of experiences and identified issues with this round of recipient reporting and consider whether additional modifications need to be made and if additional guidance is warranted.
Closed - Implemented
On December 18, 2009, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued updated guidance on Recovery Act data quality, non-reporting recipients, and reporting of job estimates. OMB stated that the updated guidance incorporates lessons learned from the first recipient reporting period and further addresses GAO's recommendations. The guidance also provided federal agencies with a standard methodology for effectively implementing reviews of the quality of data submitted by recipients of Recovery Act funding.
Office of Management and Budget 3. To improve the consistency of FTE data collected and reported, we also recommended in November 2009 that OMB consider being more explicit that "jobs created or retained" are to be reported as hours worked and paid for with Recovery Act funds.
Closed - Implemented
The Office of Management and Budget's updated December 2009 guidance to Recovery Act recipients states that they will no longer be required to make a subjective judgment on whether jobs are created or retained as a result of the Recovery Act. Instead, recipients will more easily and objectively report on jobs funded with Recovery Act dollars, aligning with our recommendation. (OMB-10-08, 12/18/2009)
Office of Management and Budget 4. To improve the consistency of FTE data collected and reported, we also recommended in our November 2009 report that OMB continue working with federal agencies to provide or improve program-specific guidance to assist recipients, especially as it applies to the full-time equivalent calculation for individual programs.
Closed - Implemented
In December 2009 recipient reporting guidance, the Office of Management and Budget required federal agencies to submit their guidance documents to them for review and clearance to ensure consistency between federal agency guidance and the guidance released by the Office of Management and Budget. (OMB-10-08, 12/18/2009)

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