Recovery Act:

Planned Efforts and Challenges in Evaluating Compliance with Maintenance of Effort and Similar Provisions

GAO-10-247: Published: Nov 30, 2009. Publicly Released: Dec 28, 2009.

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To help prevent the substitution of federal funds for state, local, or private funds, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) contains maintenance of effort and similar provisions requiring that recipients maintain certain levels of spending for selected programs. This report provides information on selected programs in the Recovery Act with maintenance of effort or similar provisions, the guidance federal agencies have issued to implement these requirements, and how responsible federal agencies are determining whether recipients meet these requirements. To conduct this work, GAO identified eight programs in the Recovery Act that contain a new maintenance of effort or similar provision; account for at least $4 billion in appropriations by agency; and collectively account for about $100.5 billion of the $106.8 billion in Recovery Act appropriations with these provisions. The eight programs with maintenance of effort or similar provisions span the areas of education, highway, housing, rail, telecommunications, and transit. The specifics of each provision vary by responsible agency, such as whether a state must certify the amount of funding it will maintain, whether waivers are allowed, and the consequences (if any) of not meeting the provisions. The federal agencies responsible for these eight programs have issued guidance to states and other recipients on how to implement the maintenance of effort or similar provision requirements. However, federal and state officials have not completed key steps in implementing these provisions because of administrative and fiscal challenges.

(1) The Department of Transportation (DOT) has begun to assess the highway and transit levels that states certified to maintain; however, it has not estimated a date for completing this assessment and has not finalized plans for determining states' compliance with their transit certifications. Furthermore, according to a DOT official, the department has not made a decision as to whether the Recovery Act requires states to maintain a total level of effort for covered programs or to maintain their level of effort for each covered program. Officials from several state departments of transportation told GAO that while they plan to meet their maintenance of effort requirements, decreasing state revenues and budgets pose a challenge to doing so. (2) The Department of Education (Education) has begun to draft a monitoring plan to oversee and enforce state compliance with maintenance of effort requirements under the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. Because the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund is a new program under the Recovery Act, Education has yet to finalize monitoring plans and processes. In addition, Education has not issued guidance to states on how to document that they met their required maintenance of effort level. (3) Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials said they are monitoring Capital Fund formula grants through ongoing efforts. Officials further stated that they are still developing a strategy for monitoring Capital Fund competitive grants. (4) The Department of Commerce's (Commerce) review of broadband grant applications for funding has been delayed because of scheduling and staffing challenges. In particular, the broadband grant program involves more applications and far more funds than the agency formerly handled, raising concerns whether the department has sufficient staff resources to implement the program in accordance with Recovery Act priorities. While Commerce originally anticipated that this review would be completed by November 7, 2009, the agency now estimates that it will not complete this review process and award the first round of grants until February 2010.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In May 2010, Education notified states that, if states made changes to their maintenance of effort (MOE) data in their State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) application, they must provide a brief explanation of the reason the data changed.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should take further action to enhance transparency by requiring states to include in their State Fiscal Stabilization Fund applications an explanation of the changes and why they want to change their 2006 maintenance of effort calculations or levels when they resubmit these applications to the Department of Education.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

 

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