Bismarck, ND– First it was phantom congressional districts; now it is phantom zip codes.
Less than two months after breaking the news that federal stimulus money was allocated to 440 non-existing congressional districts, it now appears more than $375 million in federal stimulus funds were sent to and credited with creating jobs in ZIP codes that do not exist in all but 12 of the nation’s states. According to a national study of the Recovery.gov website compiled by Kansas Watchdog reporter Earl Glynn and authored by Bill McMorris, the stimulus is sending $375 million in the form of grants, loans and government contracts to fund more than 200 projects in imaginary ZIP codes. The site also reports the funds created more than 400 jobs at a cost of about $800,000 each.
This new development was discovered on Monday by New Mexico Watchdog Jim Scarantino of the Rio Grande Foundation, who sifted through Recovery.gov, the $18 million website launched by the Obama Administration to track the destinations of billions of dollars of stimulus funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Following Monday’s developments, stories from other state-based watchdogs indicated that the problem extended beyond New Mexico’s borders. Scarantino is also credited with breaking the news on the phantom congressional districts on November 16, 2009.
“Today’s news reiterates the value and importance of transparency and accountability in the federal government. In addition, it demonstrates the efectiveness of nonprofit journalism and the need for more journalists investigating our government,” said Jason Stverak, President of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. “These imaginary ZIP codes are not necessarily a sign of taxpayer abuse but it does make the U.S. taxpayer wary of trusting our elected officials. We urge all of our Watchdogs and citizen journalists around the nation to delve into their own state stimulus funding information and report any errors to Watchdog.org.”
According to recovery.gov, all but 12 of the nation’s states have at least one phantom ZIP receiving stimulus money. California tops the nation with 22 invented codes. The imaginary ZIP codes affect both small and large cities. These errors were found by checking the zip codes reported at recovery.gov against the United States Postal Service’s on-line ZIP code locator.
The next quarterly report tracking stimulus funds, and reporting jobs created or saved by expenditure of those funds, is scheduled to be posted by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board on January 30, 2010.
To View the National Recovery.org Zip Code Study visit Watchdog.org