Why Recovery.gov Sucks So Badly


I knew this was going to happen. I told my staff this was going to happen. I told our grants officer this was going to happen. I hate it when I’m right.

When my organization received a recovery grant last spring to expand AmeriCorps programs in the Upstate, the staff groused about the duplicative and confusing reporting process. We were going to have to do all of our standard reporting (which is difficult and costly, but necessary to insure that we aren’t just wasting your tax dollars), and then an entirely separate reporting process through Recovery.gov, the Obama Administration’s accountability website. But we did it.

A few days later there were a series of conference calls with anxious federal grants staff. Apparently, Recovery.gov’s reporting feature was not working right and many of the numbers (including those my staff had entered) were being doubled or tripled or multiplied by each other or something. In any case, the first reports showed that 4.1 billion people were expected to be helped by AmeriCorps recovery grants. AmeriCorps programs are good, and they help a lot of people, but that wasn’t exactly a credible number. We had all entered the information incorrectly. So in a crazed rush, staff all across the country logged back in and tried to fix it.

I suspected that two problems were work: poor reporting software and bad data. And that’s when I foretold today’s headline in The State: DeMint, Wilson rip bogus job creation claims.

Now The State reports that “47.4” jobs have been created in South Carolina with stimulus funds. Now that’s manifestly impossible, since 3,000 jobs are being created at the Savannah River Site alone. And you can look at our report and see that we’ve reported 47 jobs (most of which are part-time and pay less than mininum wage, since they are AmeriCorps positions), so I guess somebody else has reported the 0.4 jobs. Check it out. 

The point of all this is that the partisan attacks on the President will continue whether or not he deserves it.  But this Administration has got to figure out how to get its message across in a clear, accountable and transparent way–and it has to get its technology act together. We’re a long way from the tweeting crowd of the campaign. This is real world here. And in the real world, when you screw up, you are going to get nailed. Welcome to the nailing.

3 thoughts on “Why Recovery.gov Sucks So Badly

  1. It's quite a job to interact with the multiplicity of online systems we're creating. Glad to hear Job Service is doing useful work. However, even if you had generated more jobs or better jobs, the Republicans would be screaming about something. My wife's company has been hiring due to the work at Savannah River Site and I have no way of know if anyone is reporting that or not. However, her job is more secure and some very real people have very real jobs doing work which had to be done, sooner or later.

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  2. Just so you know, it's not okay to pay less than minimum wage, it is, in fact, illegal and just cause the feds are paying those Americorps employees and, later, your state will be doesn't make what is being done to workers okay.

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  3. Dear Anon,

    Actually there are whole classes of workers who are exempt from minimum wage laws from the serving staff at your local Applebees to AmeriCorps members. Technically, AmeriCorps folks are volunteers, who give at least a year of service to our nation, and receive a small stipend, federal health benefits, child care and an education grant when they complete their service. So, yes, it's legal. Is it right or just? Well, that's another question entirely. But as a society we don't value people who love America enough to give all or a portion of their lives to make it a better for all of us. Your point is a good one. Thanks for making it.

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