Stimulus project on ProPublica

ProPublica offers a quick summary and comparison

ProPublica, a nonprofit reporting organization, created a special project to track the stimulus money. The result is a very user-friendly place to do research and comparisons.

[To understand more about the ProPublica methodology in assembling and cleaning the data, there is an explainer about that here.]

Start with the ProPublica recovery page:

The information is framed in the way that a reporter or citizen might think about it: basic questions of “How much did we get?” and “Did we get a fair share?”

You can define “we” down to the level of a county.

The very first page is a table that allows you to immediately see how much per capita your state received.

You can also sort the table according to each of the columns.

So, for example, if you want to know who got the biggest total amount of recovery money, click the double-headed arrow to toggle between a rank of highest to lowest, and lowest to highest.


A better indicator is to sort by “Per Capita”. Here we can see that Georgia ranks near the bottom – 44th among the 50 states in stimulus dollars per person.

Yet, sorting by the unemployment rate of 2008 (just before the stimulus funding began), Georgia was the 12th-highest state at 7.8 percent. In 2009 it was 15th-highest, in 2010 and 2011 it was 8th-highest among the states in unemployment.

With this information in hand, click on the name of your state to get to the next level of detail.

On this page:

+In the upper-left column, there’s a link “Sign up here” to get the full data for your state from ProPublica. This is useful if you’d like to do further analysis on your own – including to compare city-level data.

+Below that, a summary of the state’s stimulus funding and unemployment compared to the US.

+Also in the left column, a list of how much the state received from each of the federal agencies – be sure to click “Show More” to see the entire list.

+In the right column, a table showing how much each county got. Worthwhile to sort this by total, per-capita and unemployment rates and see how your market area fared compared to others.

Click the link for any county in your market area to get detailed information.

On the county page, you’ll get the comparison chart for the county to state and federal. You’ll also see how much the county received from each federal agency. By clicking the links for each agency, you can study their allocations to your county in more detail. 

The details can be seen by following the agency links, or looking at the compiled list in the second half of the page, under “Projects.”

While you can sort the data right on the page using the up-down arrows, you can work with the data in your own spreadsheet instead. Pull it directly from the web page by using the technique in this earlier post.

The information in the table is just the beginning of your reporting.  From here, you can start asking questions of the agencies, organizations, and businesses that received money, to see how your county was really affected. [An example looking at Pickens County is in this post.]

You’ll want to pay special attention to the money spent under the Small Business Administration. Those loans do not show individually in the numbers, yet they are likely to have generated jobs.

Employee at a landscaping company that received an SBA loan

They are also likely to be businesses that people know and use for convenience. For example, in a rural area of Pickens County, the SBA loans went to a local hardware store, an assisted living facility, a landscaper, a construction company, a medical office, a gas station and a beauty salon.

Housing loans (under the Department of Agriculture) and weatherization assistance (Department of Energy) also helped a number of low-income residents, while boosting jobs in the construction industry that had been the mainstay of the Pickens County economy before the economic bust.

Funding from the Department of Education has bolstered many local school districts and prevented teacher and staff layoffs.

However, some education and other projects funded by the stimulus money are only replacing funds that were cut from other places in the budget. Be sure to ask local officials whether they received new money from the stimulus and if there was any net positive impact from previous years – or if they are just maintaining the status quo.



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