Federal recovery money spent on anti-smoking ads, census

Friday, December 18, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 7:22 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 25, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — The St. Louis Cardinals might have missed out on the World Series this year, but they did receive $100,000 in federal recovery money.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services gave the Cardinals the money for anti-smoking advertisements featuring pitcher Adam Wainwright and Gov. Jay Nixon. The Cardinals used the money to buy in-game ad time from Fox Sports Midwest and the Cardinals radio network, Cardinals spokesman Ron Watermon said. The commercials have resulted in a "big spike in people calling" the state's stop-smoking line, he said.

The money given to the Cardinals is a small part of the nearly $1.1 billion of Federal Recovery and Reinvestment money appropriated by the Missouri General Assembly this fiscal year. This money was allocated to avoid program cuts due to budget shortfalls. 

According to state Budget Director Linda Luebbering, the state received about $2 billion in total budget stabilization funds from the federal government.The remaining money, about $900 million, is expected to be spent in next year's budget.

Members of the Complete Count Committee, a project designed to inform and motivate Missourians to participate in the 2010 Census, received a small amount of stimulus money from the Office of Administration for meeting and travel purposes.

Rep. Dennis Wood, R-Kimberling City — who received $176 — and Brenda Shields, the wife of Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph — who received $410 — are both members of the committee. The committee is important in ensuring all Missourians are accurately counted in the 2010 Census, Wood said. He said there is concern that Missouri may lose a representative if the state's population is under-counted, since seats in the U.S. Congress are appropriated based on state population.

Some receiving recovery money are unaware of the origin of the funds.

William Alberty, associate circuit judge for Knox County, said he had no idea the more than $2,000 he received for travel-related expenses came from federal recovery funds. Some judges are reimbursed for travel and lodging expenses when they hear trials in other counties, State Courts Administrator Greg Linhares said.

The courts have no specific policy on why some judges were paid out of stimulus funds though others were paid out of the judiciary's regular budget, Linhares said, adding that determinations on what fund would be used to pay for expenses was based on how much was available in each.

Luebbering said the state expects another $2 billion from the federal government to put toward creating jobs and stimulating the economy. The exact number is not known, as some of the money will come in the form of competitive grants that must be applied for, she said.

The Transportation Department has spent more than $160 million in stimulus money on new transportation projects. Chester Bross Construction of Hannibal has received almost $33 million of that money for road paving and construction projects, according to documents provided by Transportation Department spokeswoman Sally Oxenhandler.

More than $13 million has been awarded to St. Joseph-based Ideker Construction Company, at least $8.3 million of which was used to resurface Interstate 29 in Platte County.

Separate from stabilization and recovery money, the state Labor Department has spent more than $550 million on unemployment benefits as of Dec. 17.

On Nov. 6, the federal government extended the amount of time eligible people can receive unemployment, provided the state has an unemployment rate of at least 8.5 percent. Missouri's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.3 percent as of October, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Under this extension, a small number of claimants can receive payments for up to 99 weeks, Missouri Labor Department spokeswoman Amy Susan said.

The federal government currently is paying all unemployment claims in Missouri because the state's trust fund is more than $360 million in debt, Susan said. The state normally has to pay the first 20 weeks of a person's unemployment benefits, which are usually funded by taxes on employers. Missouri will eventually be required to reimburse the federal government for these first 20 weeks of payments.

Graphic breakdown of Missouri's stimulus funds

This graphic shows a breakdown of money received under the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009. These figures reflect funding already awarded to programs via state agencies. The numbers are displayed in real time as they are updated on the Missouri MAP Accountability Portal, a Web site set up by the state of Missouri to track federal stimulus dollars awarded in Missouri.

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