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GEORGIA

Georgia

State Recovery Act Website: http://stimulusaccountability.ga.gov/

Georgia's state Recovery Act website scored 64 out of 100 possible points (ranking 11th) on Good Jobs First's updated 51-state study of state stimulus websites entitled Show Us the Stimulus (Again). The state earned points for breaking down stimulus allocations, displaying funds awarded to individual counties overall and by program area, and for providing limited information on individual contract and grant projects through an interactive map.

For detailed scoring information, see the Georgia appendix of Show Us the Stimulus (Again).

Coordination & Oversight

Celeste Osborn has been appointed as Accountability Officer by Gov. Sonny Perdue. Osborn currently serves as Deputy Chief Financial Officer to the state of Georgia. According to her bio Osborn has, over the course of a 28-year career, "acquired financial, managerial, and executive experience in state government as well as the private sector."

Osborn assembled a core group of state officials to oversee stimulus funds in Georgia. This ARRA senior management team includes: Celeste Osborn, Office of the Governor; Debbie Dlugolenski, Office of Planning and Budget; Susan Ridley, Department of Audits and Accounts; Russell Hinton, Department of Audits and Accounts (ex officio support and guidance) ; and Liz Archer, Office of the Inspector General.

In addition to the senior management team, each state agency will be appointing a Senior Accountable Officer to work on implementation activities. These Officers from 31 different agencies will make up the Recovery Act Implementation Team. The GAO report on stimulus progress in selected states includes an organizational chart of stimulus oversight in Georgia.

Georgia is one of 16 states being monitored by the GAO to promote transparency and accountability in stimulus spending. As part of the review process, GAO inspectors will issue bimonthly reports on how ARRA funds are being used at the state and local level. According to GAO oversight report issued July 8th, "State resources for oversight of Recovery Act funds continue to be limited." Both the state auditor and state inspector general report that they are understaffed. More hires are needed to provide sufficient oversight of stimulus funds. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Gov. Sonny Perdue is meeting with state agency representatives, including the state auditor and inspector general, to discuss the possibility of a new stimulus oversight office.

Policy Debates

Georgia lawmakers have closed a $3.1 billion gap in the FY 2010 state budget by making large cuts to state agencies, eliminating the Homeowner's Tax Relief Grant, dipping into various state reserve funds, and accepting federal stimulus funds. FY 2009 ended with a budget deficit of $650 million due to lower than expected revenues. The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute predicts FY 2010 will fall short an additional $1 to $1.5 billion. GBPI argues that without additional sources of revenue, the state will be forced to make significant cuts in education, healthcare, public safety, and social services.

Gov. Perdue, as a Republican touting fiscal responsibility, has been hesitant to accept some stimulus funds, particularly those slated for expanded unemployment insurance. Along with other Republican governors, Perdue expressed concern that accepting these funds in the short run would force the state to change state laws regarding eligibility for laid off part-time workers and lead to increased UI taxes on businesses. However, according to Stateline.org, Perdue ended up encouraging state legislature to enact laws that would allow the stimulus funds to be accepted. On April 21, 2009, Perdue signed the "Georgia Works Job Creation and Protection of 2009" into law, thereby making the necessary statute changes to Georgia's unemployment insurance policy.

New legislation to beef up enforcement on a 2006 anti-immigration law resulted from concern undocumented workers could possibly benefit from stimulus contracts and grants. Act 339 will take effect January 1st, 2010.

In early June, the Georgia Stimulus Transparency and Accountability Coalition (GSTAC) was created. The coalition currently consists of over a dozen member organizations, including the Georgia Budget and Policy Initiative and Common Cause Georgia. GSTAC is reaching out to state representatives as part of an investigative effort to understand the government's plans for stimulus funds. Among other concerns, coalition members point out there is limited information provided on how particular projects are picked to receive stimulus funds.

Federal DOT transit grants to Georgia, including some federal stimulus grants, were reportedly frozen due to financial mismanagement within the state DOT office. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a federal investigation found evidence of severe mismanagement and a lack of oversight. Recent state reports by the state auditor and inspector general also criticized the state DOT financial practices. The freeze is expected to be lifted after the state receives federal approval of the state DOT's action plan to correct the problems.

Last updated on: 27 January, 2010

Quick Facts

Population:
9,685,744

Median Household Income:
$49,136

Unemployment Rate:
10.2%

Poverty Rate:
14.3%

Estimated Recovery Act Funding:
$6.1 billion

Resources

Georgia Budget and Policy Institute:

Balancing the State Budget With Federal Stimulus Funds, December 2009; online here.

Summary of Federal Recovery Funds for Georgia, June 2009; online here.

Recommendations for Using Federal Stimulus Child Care Funds in Georgia, March 2009; online here.

Fact Sheet: Recommendations for Using Federal Stimulus Child Care Funds, March 2009; online here.

Georgia Unemployment Benefits Under ARRA, March 2009; online here.

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