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I-Team: Tracking The Florida Stimulus Money Trail

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A CBS4 I-Team investigation into your money discovered dozens of questionable ways your tax dollars are being spent as part of the US government’s Stimulus package. While the Stimulus bill was touted by Congress and President Barack Obama as a job creator, the I-Team has uncovered millions of dollars being spent on projects that create or save few or zero jobs.

I-Team investigator Stephen Stock dug through hundreds of different Stimulus project to uncover details about how your money is really being spent.

What do mosquitoes, cone snails, high school students smoking marijuana and massage and beauty schools have in common? They are all the focus of millions of your tax dollars spent as part of the US government’s stimulus program.

“Taxpayers should be outraged!” said Citizens Against Government Waste’s Leslie Paige, when the I-Team shared its findings with them. “And in fact I think they are (outraged.)”

Paige is media director for Citizens Against Government waste, located in Washington, D.C.

“From the get go it (the US Stimulus bill) was pretty much going to be a huge pork barrel project,” Paige said in an interview from Washington. “And that’s exactly what it’s turned out to be.”

So far, according to recovery.org, the US government’s official website providing easy access to data related to the Recovery Act, the state of Florida has received $402,300,000 in stimulus money for hundreds of different projects the government says has created 29,321 jobs.

Millions more of those tax dollars have been promised to fix bridges, build new road projects–such as renovating the new interchange at the Palmetto and Dolphin expressways–and to save hundreds of public school teaching jobs throughout the state.

I-Team Related Links
View A Spreadsheet Of The Job Creation In Florida
Search The CBS4 Database For Specific Projects In Florida That Received Stimulus Funding
GAO Report On Stimulus Spending
View The Excel Spreadsheet Of How The Money Is Spent

But the CBS4 I-Team dug deeper. The I-Team discovered dozens of other projects that many people might consider suspect. Projects that, by the government’s own admission, create or save few to no jobs.

Take for instance, Florida Atlantic University: it has been awarded $213,750 to study the venom of cone snails.

Or Florida International University: one project got $59,402 dollars awarded to research the physiology of juvenile mosquitoes.

Another $648,737 went to develop a program and to study marijuana use among Latino 10th and 11th graders.

None of these project proposals list more than a handful of jobs created, at the most.

“Unfortunately I’m not surprised,” said US Representative Mario Diaz-Balart when we showed him our findings.

Representative Diaz-Balart (R) represents Southwest Dade County, including Florida International University, in Congress.

“The American people have the right to be outraged, to be incensed!” said Diaz-Balart. “And (they have the right) to demand that people (in government) be held accountable.”

In fact, the CBS I-Team’s analysis of just a few of the different projects funded with stimulus grants shows 75 different groups have been awarded $93,146,211 with no jobs created by any of the proposals.

I-Team Related Links
View A Spreadsheet Of The Job Creation In Florida
Search The CBS4 Database For Specific Projects In Florida That Received Stimulus Funding
GAO Report On Stimulus Spending
View The Excel Spreadsheet Of How The Money Is Spent

The recipients include Deerfield Beach, which got $460,000 to build new sidewalks.

Sixty-five thousand two hundred and seventy one stimulus dollars in grants went to New Concept Massage and Beauty School and $479,277 in grants went to La Belle Beauty School, both in Miami-Dade County.

And $767,907 in grants went to Miami International University Art & Design.

Also $25-thousand each went to Boca Ballet Theater, Fort Lauderdale’s Children’s Theater and the Jewish Museum of Florida in Miami Beach.

The Stimulus spending also includes $1,866,724 that goes to a private company, Square D Company, Inc., out of Palatine, Illinois, to install advanced electrical meter boxes in Key West.

And $7,753,301 will go to CTB McGraw Hill, LLC, out of Monterey, California, to develop and administer the FCAT.

I-Team investigator Stephen Stock asked one local congressman “Is this the kind of thing this money going to?”

Congressman Ron Klein simply answered “No.”

I-Team Related Links
View A Spreadsheet Of The Job Creation In Florida
Search The CBS4 Database For Specific Projects In Florida That Received Stimulus Funding
GAO Report On Stimulus Spending
View The Excel Spreadsheet Of How The Money Is Spent

Ron Klein (D) represents Broward and Palm Beach Counties in Congress. He says these few examples uncovered by the I-Team are a problem.

“It (the Stimulus bill) is a work in progress,” Klein said. “The stimulus dollars, (for example) over half the money nationally hasn’t been fully implemented yet.”

Representative Klein says the questionable programs uncovered by the I-Team are the exception rather than the rule.

“I think that common sense tells us that job creation for to get our economy back up and running is quantity of jobs and not all of these do that,” Klein said. “We want to get good quality jobs and some of these silly ideas, if I can use that word, or frivolous ideas, that have come in with these grants, no they shouldn’t be funded.”

In fact, Klein has developed his own website. On Klein’s website there is a special feature which allows constituents to track how stimulus money is being spent in his district.

Congressman Klein encourages anyone to go on his website and search out questionable spending. Then, he says, they should report it.

“The way we can make sure the money is being spent properly is to make sure that the public has all the information to help be the eyes and ears of what’s going on in the community,” Klein said.

Leslie Paige, of Citizens Against Government Waste says evidence of these type of projects being funded should prompt Congress to halt the Stimulus spending right away.

“Most of this money is going to back fill bureaucracies at state local and federal level,” Paige said. “This is not creating the kind of jobs that taxpayers were promised when the thing passed back in February.”

Other watchdog groups in Washington the CBS4 I-Team spoke with say the stimulus package was necessary and has worked to reverse the economic slide.

But representatives from those watchdog groups also worry about the huge debt this stimulus bill has saddled taxpayers with and how that might affect the country’s future. And they say questionable projects such as the ones exposed by the I-Team undermines the public’s confidence in the Stimulus package.

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