The application Layar allows iPhone 3GS and Android phone users to literally, see where all the stimulus money is going.
While the application tracks recipients and dollar amounts received, it doesn't provide details about where the money was spent or information on whether a project is complete.
By Alex Cameron, Oklahoma Impact Team
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Fifteen months into the federal Recovery Act, more than half of the law's $787 billion in funding has been appropriated to the states, making this is an ideal time to try and follow the money.
And, perhaps not surprisingly, there's now an app to help you do that.
Owners of the iPhone 3GS or any Android phone are just a free download away from being able to, literally, see where all the stimulus money is going.
The application, Layar, is billed as an "augmented reality browser." It overlays location-sensitive data onto the phone's live picture, giving the user a visual approximation of where certain searched-for items (e.g., restaurants) are, within a specified range.
Among the search options is Recovery.gov and its massive database of stimulus contracts.
NEWS 9 producer Tiffany Stockton recently tested the app on her iPhone as she walked through the Capitol complex in northeast Oklahoma City. Holding her phone out in front of her, arcing it slowly from east to west, she began ticking off one state agency after another that had received stimulus money.
"The Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Abuse...Oklahoma State Health Department, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation got $49,293,735," she read.
Each recipient on Stockton's phone appeared as a blue dot, superimposed on the view provided by her phone's camera, and corresponding directionally to the agency's physical address.
"Downtown there's a lot of dots that pop up," Stockton said, after moving to a location close to the City Hall of Oklahoma City.
The larger the dot appears on the screen, the closer its actual location to the user.
"It seems pretty accurate, but it doesn't really give a lot of detail as to what project it is," Stockton said. "It just tells you who the recipient is, how much money they got and where the project is."
The application also doesn't provide information on whether a project is complete, or, as in the case of a stimulus-funded resurfacing project on Interstate 40 between Yukon and El Reno, partially complete.
"This road was built in the early '60s," said ODOT Director Gary Ridley. "It's served us well, but for the last 15 years or so it's needed to be replaced."
Stimulus money, Ridley said, is making that possible. Those funds, he said, are also making many other critical road projects happen.
According to the latest quarterly report on Recovery.gov, released last Friday, Oklahoma has now received $907 million of the $2.4 billion awarded to the state under the ARRA legislation. About one-fifth of those funds -- $465 million -- is going to transportation projects, which has attracted the attention, naturally, of contractors, but also the State Auditor.
"I have embedded auditors at the Department of Transportation that stay there 12 months out of the year," said Steve Burrage, Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector. "We're continually auditing all state and federal money that is expended by this department."
The Recovery Web site also reports stimulus funds were responsible for 8,045 full-time equivalent positions (FTEs) in Oklahoma during the first quarter of 2010.
Many Oklahomans question such numbers, as well as, the overall benefit of the stimulus package.
"When you got $2.4 billion working from the stimulus money in the state, there's a lot of trickle down, a lot of transfer around," said Mike Seney, Senior Vice President of Operations for the State Chamber of Commerce. "So it definitely stimulates the economy. Is it increasing jobs? Maybe, maybe not."
Layar's stimulus tracking application doesn't help clear up the whole jobs controversy, but it may hold some promise for clearing up the other big question so many have regarding the stimulus: where is all that money being spent?
"You hear so much about the stimulus," said Stockton, studying her phone's screen, "but you really don't know where your money's going and where everything's being spent, so it's neat to see it in action...almost."
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