Jan 19, 2009

Time Frame To Spend That $900 Million

The Obama economic stimulus package contains a total of $900 million in supplemental appropriations for the Social Security Administration. Ordinarily, federal appropriations are for one fiscal year only. The current fiscal year ends on September 30, 2009. Social Security would have to move awfully fast to spend that much money that fast. A second look at the bill shows that while the money is appropriated for the current fiscal year (§3), agencies will have until the end of the following fiscal year, September 30, 2010, to spend it all (§1105). However, §1102 says that each agency must have a goal of spending at least 50% of the money upon activities that can be "initiated" within 120 days of enactment. No, the bill does not define "initiate."

My prediction: Lots of overtime for Social Security employees, since I expect that Commissioner Astrue will try to avoid hiring new employees. At least we will know how Social Security is spending the money since §1201 requires each agency to post on the internet its plans for spending the money.

By the way, Social Security's Office of Inspector General is also given a $2 million supplemental appropriation in the bill. Each inspector general is required to review any concerns raised by the public about how the money is spent -- and I do mean required, since the statutory language is "shall", not "may" (§1202).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I also expect a lot of overtime due to the extra funds. However, many SSA employees no longer want to work overtime, and the number of those who do, considering how few are left after the staffing reductions, is insufficient for the extra hours to make a significant difference in the backlogs. In other words, it is already too late.
What should be done is an immediate push to hire clericals, receptionists, and service representatives. They all require much less training and expertise than claims representatives, and their presence would have an immediate and positive effect.