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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia state agencies have spent 40 percent of $1.4 billion in stimulus dollars they have been awarded so far, according to Manchin administration figures.
They have awarded $555 million to a dizzying array of projects ranging from roads and bridges to schools and sewers, by administration accounting.
But new figures posted Friday on the national stimulus Web site, www.recovery.gov, say West Virginia spent only 20 percent of its grants and contracts -- $278 million -- through the end of March.
The difference? The federal numbers do not include extra Medicaid dollars or other entitlements, according to Cheryl Arvidson, spokeswoman for www.recovery.gov.
Even 40 percent startled Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, chairwoman of the House of Delegates' stimulus subcommittee.
"In either case, it means less than half the money has made its way into West Virginia's economy," she said.
The Legislature has had trouble getting basic information about West Virginia stimulus spending from Gov. Joe Manchin's administration, Guthrie said. "We have not been able to find out which projects have gone forward, in what county, who is doing the work and how far along they are. That has got to change."
State stimulus coordinator Danny Scalise said that information soon would be posted on the state's recovery website, www.recovery.wv.gov. "We're proud of what we've done so far," he said.
"I'm concerned that they're running out of time," Guthrie said. "A lot of this money has to be obligated by 2011. That's the witching hour. After that, it goes back in a pool, and other states can compete for it."
Nationwide, on average, states have invoiced for 31 percent of their grant and contract funds, according to the new www.recovery.gov data.
West Virginia is behind most of its neighbors by that rough reckoning, which does not include extra Medicaid dollars. Kentucky has spent 31 percent, Ohio has spent 19 percent, Pennsylvania and Virginia have each spent 26 percent, and Maryland has spent 23 percent.
"People assume this money went out quickly," Guthrie said. "That was the intention. How can anybody say yet what the full impact of the stimulus will be?"
'An upsurge soon'
Manchin administration officials say the pace soon will pick up considerably. "We have great projects, but we had to spend a lot of the last year getting ready," said Department of Commerce Secretary Kelley Goes.
"We know it looks slow to people who are looking at this from outside," she said, "but, for government agencies, we are moving at the speed of light."
By the state's figures, Commerce is one of three agencies that have spent less than five percent of their award money. The other two are the Public Service Commission (1 percent) and the governor's office (4 percent).
Of $65 million in awards, Commerce has spent only 1 percent, $639,000.
"The amount of groundwork that you have to do before you can spend this money is obscene," Goes said. "It's not a matter of getting the money, then putting the money right back out."
In West Virginia, the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers Medicaid, has spent a higher proportion of its stimulus dollars than any other agency: 94 percent of $366 million.
They didn't have to do up-front work, said Jim Pitrolo, policy director for Manchin. "They just add the dollars to what they already do."
If the DHHR is taken out of the math, the other West Virginia agencies have spent 19 percent of their stimulus dollars as a group, which roughly matches the federal figures.
National construction associations say that, nationwide, infrastructure projects will accelerate this year. That will happen in West Virginia, Pitrolo said. "It's takes a while to bid the projects. A rough winter's over. You'll see an upsurge soon in construction."
The state Department of Transportation has awarded contracts for $221 million in road and bridge projects, but only 39 percent of those dollars has been paid out, according to the DOT.