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Only 3 percent of stimulus spent so far

The money was intended to be spent quickly. But in the three months since the bill was passed, only a few programs have received a significant bump.

By Staff writer / May 13, 2009

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, pictured here at a White House event, have promoted their stimulus bill as a way to get money into the economy fast.

Ron Edmonds/AP

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Washington

Eventually, the stimulus bill may pump an estimated $787 billion into the US economy. But that will take time. So far, Washington has laid out only about $28 billion – less than 3 percent – of the outlays authorized by the legislation.

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Of that money, about $16 billion has gone for one activity, medical assistance to states, according to the just-released first quarterly report to President Obama on the progress of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The medical spending flows through existing programs such as Medicaid and thus can be pumped out quickly, notes the report, released May 13 and signed by Vice President Joe Biden.

"Other programs, such as high speed rail, require more extensive planning and are projected ... to outlay more slowly," says the report.

When the stimulus bill was debated in Congress and passed earlier this year, the speed with which it could get cash into the hands of US workers was a big issue. Republicans pushed for the legislation to include more tax cuts, which they said would work more quickly. The Obama administration wanted a mix of tax and spending activities, saying that the economy was so weak it was appropriate for the government to increase spending over a relatively long period of time.

The May 13 report contained no dollar estimate of the amount of money allocated so far through tax provisions.

Of the spending part of the bill, some $88 billion has been "made available for programs and projects," according to the report. But that means the cash is in a pipeline. As of May 5, $28.5 billion of that money actually had been "outlaid," or spent, according to the report.

"The reports shows early progress ... the pace is expected to accelerate in coming months," said a senior administration official who discussed the issue with reporters on a conference call.

So far, the stimulus bill has created or saved 150,000 jobs through direct spending, or the promise of cash to come, said the official.

Another 600,000 jobs will be created or saved over the next 100 days, according to the report.

"The key to recognize here is that the act is now creating jobs in all 50 states," said the official.