The United States is currently experiencing one of the deepest recessions in recent memory. With an unemployment rate comparable to that of the early 1980s, and a financial crisis that has affected nearly every sector of the nation’s economy, the challenge of revitalizing the economy is daunting. In response to these conditions, the Federal government has taken bold measures over the past year in order to diminish the effects of the downturn and to stimulate economic growth. Most notable among these efforts is the passing of a bill of historic proportions, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Through the ARRA, an unprecedented volume of resources will be dispensed. The variety of government levels, agencies, and programs through which funds will be channeled, and the range of economic need throughout the country all represent the exceptional challenge of allocating the Recovery Act money. These precious resources must be clearly useful, have impact, and demonstrate to the public that government action can result in public good. To build public trust and community level ownership, steps must be taken to ensure transparent and accountable allocation of the Recovery Act’s resources. To be effective, the investments must be targeted and clearly address structural equity issues.