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Here's where stimulus money is putting people to work

A first report card shows the federal Recovery Act money means hiring more electricians, carpenters, and others across the country. But it’s not necessarily in states with the highest unemployment rates.

By Staff writer / October 15, 2009

US citizens can now search by state, zip code, and congressional district to view where government contracts are being awarded.

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Your economic stimulus money is helping to keep the lights on at an electrical contractor’ shop in Hawaii, the state where Barack Obama went to high school.

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The price-tag: $366,578 for A-1 A-lectrician Inc. to do repairs and seismic upgrades at a federal building in Hilo.

That kind of detail is now available to the public, thanks to a White House pledge of transparency. The numbers, released Thursday on the website, allow US citizens to drill down by state, zip code, and congressional district to view where government contracts are being awarded.

It's a tantalizing glimpse into the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the largest US stimulus effort ever. But it's just a glimpse.

So far, details on just $16 billion in ARRA contracts and grants are on view. Eventually that's slated to go much higher. (The total stimulus, reaching $787 billion, also includes money going toward tax cuts and aid to states.)

The spending faces close scrutiny to see if it's boosting the economy – and if there are signs of political cronyism.

A quick overview of the first $16 billion:

• So far, the state that tops the list in contract dollars per capita is Alaska. Who would have thought the home state of Republican politician Sarah Palin would top the list of federal largess, at about $378 per resident? (OK, some of you have heard of the bridge to nowhere, but anyway....) The money covers a new hospital in Nome and dredging the port of Anchorage. Second place goes to Washington State, thanks to big money for cleanup at the Hanford nuclear weapons site.

• The District of Columbia isn't a state, but little surprise that the nation's capital sees the biggest concentration of contracts – about $948 per resident.