Arizona gets federal stimulus cash early - East Valley Tribune: News

Arizona gets federal stimulus cash early

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Posted: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 5:52 pm | Updated: 2:07 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Arizona is getting its last allocation of unrestricted stimulus cash a couple of months early.

But that doesn't mean Gov. Jan Brewer, who said the funds are sorely needed, has figured out exactly how to spend it.

Brewer's office on Wednesday issued a release praising the Obama administration - and specifically Education Secretary Arne Duncan - for letting not just Arizona but all states have their last allocation of general purpose "stabilization" funds. For Arizona, that is a $61 million check, part of the $185 million in stabilization funds with few strings attached, other than states are supposed to use it to avoid reductions in education and other essential public services.

And Brewer, facing a $3 billion deficit, has known for some time Arizona was getting all the money. But despite Wednesday's release, Brewer press aides could provide no specifics on what will be funded.

"That hasn't yet been determined," said Tasya Peterson.

Nor could she provide a timeline for a decision to be made.

"We don't know yet," Peterson said. "That's up to the governor."

Brewer gave some general ideas earlier this year of her priorities, including education reform, health care, public safety and the broad general category of innovation, technology and economic development.

As to specifics, Peterson said it's "in the thought process." And even Paul Senseman, the governor's communications chief, said he could not provide a definition of exactly what constitutes "education reform."

So if there's no specific plan - and the money was coming this fiscal year anyway - what was the point of the press release?

"Well, to let everybody know the money has been released early for use," Peterson said. "And that the governor intends to put it to good use."

Overall, Arizona is getting more than $6.2 billion in stimulus dollars. Much of that is going to cities, counties and the state for "shovel-ready" projects as well as specialty programs ranging from immunization and child care to homelessness prevention.

The state also is getting $832 million specifically earmarked for public education and nearly another $1.8 billion to supplement what the federal government already pays the state for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state's Medicaid program.

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