Stimulus Money Unspent as Economy Struggles

By the end of next month, the federal government will have awarded nearly all of its stimulus funds - $862 billion -to local governments around the country.

But as CBS News Congressional Correspondent Nancy Cordes reports, it's in those states and cities that the money is running into roadblocks.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C. and a supporter of the stimulus, is frustrated with the slow pace of stimulus spending in his home state of South Carolina.

"There is a big difference in what we do here in Washington and how it gets where the rubber meets the road out in these communities," Clyburn said.

Take the cash-strapped District of Columbia - which has spent less than half of the roughly $1 billion stimulus it received. The city got $14 million to repair rundown Pennsylvania Avenue. But only $4 million has gone out the door.

Natwar Gandhi, Washington D.C.'s chief financial officer said, "When you invest in long term projects you want to do the proper planning - that it's simply not spent for the sake of spending."

Some cities are still trying to figure out what to do with the money. Others are struggling to navigate the bidding and permit process.

That's why, 18 months after the president signed the stimulus bill into law, the U.S. Department of Energy has pledged $30.2 billion worth of stimulus grants and contracts - but only paid out $6.2 billion.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the stimulus bill "has been an utter failure even by the administration's own standards."

The Obama administration says stimulus funds for energy and infrastructure projects were always expected to go out slower than the billions in unemployment benefits and tax cuts.

"It's just as if you were to hire a contractor to work on your home. You don't give them that final check until they're done," said White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein. "I don't think that the American taxpayer would want it any other way."

But polls show that American taxpayers aren't sure the stimulus is working. Democratic arguments that the economy would be much worse without it are a hard sell during a campaign when unemployment is at 9.5 percent.
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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.

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