This puts the rough in rough draft —- it’s a skeleton, really.
P.S. — no hating for typos, please 😉
This is basically how the article will be structured — one general into and four subheads.
General overview of where the money went
According to ProPublica, Pickens county received $844 per capita of stimulus money, the is $550 less per capita than the Georgia average and nearly half of what was received per capita nationwide — and this is with unemployment slightly higher in Pickens than the state and national average. Gilmer to the north received nearly $200 more per capita — $16 million of which went to Small Business Administration (I would guess this is the big divide between Pickens and Gilmer. While the two counties are about the same size, there are at least four times as many businesses in Gilmer, and I am guessing this is because there is a healthy tourism market there.) But Cherokee actually received $300 less per capita than Pickens.
A large hunk of their money went to the Department of Transportation (which ranked under education and small business in that county). DOT funding was nominal in Pickens. Hwy 575 project improvements near exit 19 in Cherokee was a result of this money, I assume. Dawson received nearly $200 less than Pickens per capita — the lion’s share went to low income housing loans, and one single-recipient business/industry loan. Unemployment here was slightly lower in 2011. All these comparisons beg for a chart or graph. It makes sense to me to have the chart reflect the basic comparisons of Pickens to state/nation/perhaps surrounding counties? Thoughts Lisa?
Here are the top three recipients by federal agency/department in Pickens. Small Business Administration $5,916,800 Energy, Department of $5,527,460 Education, Department of $5,159,941. Department of Agriculture is right after this with over $4 million (this primarily went to low-income housing). Then there is a big drop off to the Social Security Administration at $1.6 million. It makes sense to me to cover more in-depth these first four big ones (each under a separate subhead), and perhaps just briefly, in the introduction, cover generally where the money went in all other department/agencies in Pickens. I am using ProPublica and Recovery.org primarily for sourcing. While I trust the data fro ProPublica a bit more, I found this neat little feature on Recovery that lets you click on each award and learn more details about that award — this is especially helpful if the award was part of a larger award granted to numerous agencies under one umbrella (i.e. Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, which received over $36 million statewide —- $250,000 of which went to Pickens for water system improvements.) The description gives you an estimate of how many jobs were created because of the funding and tells you the purpose of the grant/loan. This will be a great thing to know before going into interviews this week.
Small Business Administration — There are only 15 businesses, according to ProPublica, that received these loans. I can easily call most or all of them to find out how the loans impacted the business. Did the money add/save any jobs? Did the business go under despite the loan? I am especially interested in Rock Creek Manor (an assisted living facility that has not been around for more than a year — did this help them open?); Marble Ace Hardware (which closed and reopened — not sure if this was under new ownership, but something to look into); and English Poultry (who in the heck is this? Never heard of them before).
Department of Energy —- NORTH GEORGIA COMMUNITY ACTION INC received $5,527,460 (according to ProPublica) — this is a program that helps with weatherization assistance for low-income people in their 10 county area. They do retrofitting to help with energy efficiency, but I also know that they have assisted with heating bills in past years (a program which I believe may have been cut last year). I am going to find out why, with the assistance, did they have to cut the heating assistance program. There was once a cooling assistance as well (I think). I will find out how much of that $5+ million went directly to Pickens. NGCA also serves Cherokee and Gilmer (two of the counties I am looking into comparing basics about stimulus money — I will compare here as well. Basically I want to know where the money went — to add programs (not likely); to sustain programs? Just to keep afloat? To add/keep jobs?
Education — A little over $5 million went to education in Pickens. About $4.5 million of that went to the Pickens County Board of Education, the largest hunk of which went to elementary/secondary education and then special education and rehabilitative services. I have heard that special education is insanely costly, and I wonder if this money was just to keep those departments above water. About $500,000 went to fund the PELL Grant through the Tech School (I assume this would be Chattahoochee Technical College — I will talk to the financial officer at the school ). With the public school, I will start here simply by interviewing the financial director for the BOE. She worked there before, through and after stimulus funding. She will be my jumping off point. I am interested if the funding created or saved any jobs in the education system as well (thanks to a comment in NewsNumbers 😉
Department of Agriculture – Most of this funding went to low/moderate income housing loans. I literally just decided to include this section while writing this, so have done no work on it yet. I’ll develop this as I move along.