72,000 stimulus checks sent to dead people; only 55 jobs created in L. A. from $111 million funding

businessman with bundles of cash in his armsAbout $18 million in stimulus payments went to people who were either dead or in prison, says a government auditor in a new report.

If that isn't enough to make your tax-paying wallet implode, how's this: Los Angeles got $111 million in federal stimulus money and has only managed to create a whopping 55 jobs thus far. Are you gagging yet?

Last year's massive economic recovery package sent out about 52 million checks of $250 to Social Security recipients for a total cost of about $13 billion. The idea was that the extra money would increase consumer spending and help stimulate the economy.

But checks were sent to almost 72,000 people who were dead and presumably not inclined to shop, says the report by the inspector general of the Social Security Administration.

Only about half of the payments were returned and apparently there are no provisions in the law to recover any of the money. A big oopsie.

It gets worse. Another $4.3 million in checks were sent to more than 17,000 prison inmates, the report said, although some of them may have been eligible because they were newly incarcerated and had been getting Social Security before they got locked up.

In what may be the bureaucratic understatement of the year, Social Security spokesman Mark Lassiter called the inaccurate payments "unacceptable." He said the program's payments were 99.8% accurate, and the agency moved "quickly" to collect the "majority" of the inaccurate payments. Majority means one more than half, right?

In some cases, the recipient was "newly deceased," he said, and paperwork hadn't reached the agency's desk. Actually, only about 8,000 of them were newly deceased. The agency knew about the rest of them.

Want another example of how the federal stimulus package has been handled by your government officials? Slowly, very slowly in Los Angeles.

LA City Controller Wendy Greul says that of the $111 million the city received in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding, the city has managed to create just 55 jobs. The Department of Public Works got $70.65 million and has only spent $5.4 million of it thus far, creating or retaining 45 jobs, falling short of its goal of creating 238 new jobs. The Department of Transportation got $40.8 million and managed to spend $1.8 million to create or retain nine spots. Bureaucracy is blamed. Some projects require a bidding process, which added to the delays.

Greul's press release notes that Los Angeles is the largest city in the the country to conduct an audit of how ARRA funds have been spent. "I'm disappointed that we've only created or retained 55 jobs after receiving $111 million in ARRA funds. With our local unemployment rate over 12%, we need to do a better job cutting the red tape and putting Angelenos back to work," she said.

She adds that it didn't appear the money was misspent. To which I can only say that there are different ways to commit a crime, and sitting on this jobs-creation money while people lose their homes and populate food banks is a crime in my book.
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