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Stimulus Funds Boost Number of Federal Jobs

Stimulus Funds Boost Number of Federal Jobs

Photo: AP | Stimulus critics such as Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the top Republican on the House oversight committee, say the package has enlarged the federal bureaucracy without making a dent in the nation's unemployment rate.

Matt Kelley | USA TODAY via YellowBrix

September 24, 2009

WASHINGTON — The $787 billion economic recovery package also is stimulating growth in the federal government as agencies hire thousands of workers and spend millions of dollars to oversee and implement the package, according to government records and spokesmen.

Fourteen of the top federal agencies responsible for spending under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act say they’ve hired about 3,000 workers with stimulus money. That’s helped fuel the continued growth of the federal government, which increased by more than 25,000 employees, or 1.3%, since December 2008, according to the latest quarterly report. During that time, the ranks of the nation’s unemployed increased by nearly 4 million, Labor Department statistics show.

Overall, there are about 2 million federal workers, the data show.

Thirteen agencies that report stimulus-related administrative expenses separately on their weekly spending reports say they’ve spent $186.8 million so far on salaries and other overhead. Those agencies have reported spending $46.1 billion in stimulus funds overall.

The new workers are tackling such tasks as managing stimulus-funded contracts, processing Social Security benefit claims and investigating possible cases of fraud and waste. They’re overseeing about $288 billion in tax cuts and nearly $500 billion in federal spending, much of it in the form of transfers to state governments for education, health care and jobless benefits.

The Social Security Administration, for example, has hired 2,115 workers, spokeswoman Kia Green said. The Energy Department has hired about 240 workers, including engineers, contract managers and accountants, spokeswoman Tiffany Edwards said in an e-mail.

Stimulus critics such as Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the top Republican on the House oversight committee, say the package has enlarged the federal bureaucracy without making a dent in the nation’s unemployment rate, which was 9.7% in August. “The only thing we have seen stimulated by this package has been the size of the federal government,” Issa said in an e-mailed statement.

The growth is small and temporary, says John Berry, head of the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management.

“The stimulus money hasn’t really gone to federal employees; it’s gone out into the economy,” Berry says. “There’s no permanent increase in the size of the federal government from the stimulus money.”

Adding extra responsibilities with relatively few new employees threaten to overtax the federal workforce and undercut the Obama administration’s goal of preventing improper spending, says Donald Kettl, dean of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy.

“There’s just a limit to how far you can push people and not open the process up to charges of waste, fraud and abuse,” Kettl says.

Berry says his office has helped federal agencies streamline the hiring process by granting waivers of some employment rules, allowing agencies to hire without having his office approve the applicant and allowing retirees to temporarily return to their former jobs while continuing to draw retirement benefits.

“We have tried to do everything we can,” Berry says.

Read More: Ten Steps to Getting a Government Job

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