EPA lacked strategy to create jobs with $7.2 billion stimulus funding

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Environmental Protection Agency stimulus projects did not meet two essential Recovery Act goals—creating jobs and helping economically distressed communities, the agency’s inspector general found.

The EPA received $7.2 billion in stimulus funding for projects focused on clean drinking water, hazardous waste cleanup and emission reduction. But an analysis by the IG found that the EPA did not identify or evaluate funding decisions for low-income communities or choose projects based on job creation.

EPA did not have a plan or strategy in place to reach people most affected by the economic downturn and did not identify or direct program funds to projects or communities with the most severe needs. The purpose of Recovery Act funds was to create or save jobs, address environmental challenges and assist Americans most severely impacted by the recession.

Another factor hindering the effectiveness of EPA stimulus funds in underprivileged communities was the emphasis on “shovel-ready” projects. Low-income communities struggled to meet the deadline for applications and prepare complete proposals.

The report said EPA managers lacked data to identify areas with both high unemployment and environmental challenges. There was also a shortage of information regarding how many jobs could be created. The agency lacked definitions, data and measures to track the results of the projects and instead emphasized success stories to show how stimulus projects met community needs, the report said.

“The Agency responded that it did not have the authority or mission to target Recovery Act funds to disadvantaged communities and that these funds have already been obligated,” the report said.

FAST FACT:Only 13 percent of respondents in the inspector general survey of EPA regional managers acknowledged that their programs had goals for job creation.

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