RTTNews - The U.S. economic stimulus program received mixed grades Wednesday from a government watchdog agency.

The Government Accountability Office issued a report saying state and local governments will receive $49 billion from the so-called American Recovery and Reinvestment Act during the current fiscal year.

Since the program was enacted four months ago, about 60-percent of that amount, or $29 billion, has already been distributed.

The distribution is faster than expected, the GAO said in Wednesday's report, but it claimed methods of checking on the way the money is spent have been inadequate.

The GAO said the funding has been used in many cases to help individual states close budget gaps resulting from expanding costs and dwindling revenues.

Most of the payments have been used to help state and local governments pay for, health-related expenses for the poor through the Medicaid program. The federal share of the program was increased for 27 months through the stimulus package. The extra funding was offset, however, by 7 percent increases in Medicaid enrollment.

States reported that they are using or planning to use freed-up funds to cover their increased Medicaid caseload, to maintain current benefits and eligibility levels, and to help finance their respective state budgets, the GAO said.

The report also noted that about half of the money earmarked for road and bridge repairs is being spend to repave highways instead of to build new infrastructure. The report also found that state officials are not directing the funds to counties that are most in need of new jobs.

The stimulus program, carrying a total price tag of $787 billion, has come under fire from Republicans in Congress. Republican Congressman Darrell Issa noted the nation'a unemployment rate has reached its highest levels since 1983, and the Obama administration has been unable to justify its questionable claims related to jobs 'saved or created' by the stimulus.

President Obama has repeatedly said the stimulus package will be a means to save or create 3 million to 4 million jobs.
Since the stimulus bill was signed into law in February, more than 2 million American jobs have been lost.

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