Avoiding Stimulus Exhaustion


Avoiding Stimulus Exhaustion

Thursday, December 16th, 2010 - 9:10
Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 11:26
What can you look forward to seeing about the stimulus act in 2011 – and beyond.

This blog is coming to an end next week. We'll run our last post, an index of our ten months of Recovery Act coverage, a week from today.

But while this nearly daily commentary on Recovery Act implementation will be over, the impact of the stimulus on states and local governments will continue for a long time. It's true that many stimulus funding streams are running out. It’s also true that states will be receiving less stimulus cash in the coming year. But there’s still a lot of stimulus work left to do—and we hope that “stimulus exhaustion” doesn’t prevent it from getting done, and done well.

As a matter of fact, certain stimulus funding hasn’t even begun to go out the door. Medical providers, for example, won’t begin receiving reimbursements for adopting electronic medical records until the first quarter of 2011, at the earliest, with many waiting until 2012 to get those checks! (As John Lynn at the EMR and HIPAA blog jokes, this is not the “shovel ready” portion of the stimulus.) Likewise, high-speed rail projects remain in early phases—and in limbo in some states.

More than that, though, there’s still the job of assessing and studying the outcomes of the stimulus with evaluations that go beyond job counts and raw economic impact toward a more robust measurement of what exactly we got out of the stimulus. We’ve highlighted the sort of energy savings appraisals that such programmatic assessments could resemble—documenting what works, what doesn’t, how much or how well. And, with luck, there will be lots more coming because there are big questions to answer.

A few: What were the Recovery Act’s benefits to our nation’s infrastructure? How much will Race to the Top improve schoolsl? How much greener are we thanks to ARRA?

We hope that we’ll see a lot more of that kind of assessment in 2011 and soon thereafter. There’s a pretty narrow window of opportunity for a complete accounting of stimulus outcomes, and it would be a crying shame to see the opportunity lost.