The Obama administration this week released final definitions for stimulus spending information that state and local governments must report to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to comply with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

A 22-page document posted to recovery.gov provides detailed descriptions for nearly 100 data elements that recipients of ARRA funds will report to the OMB by Oct. 10, the first quarterly deadline for submitting stimulus spending information to the federal government. Among other things, the document -- Recipient Reporting Data Model v3.0 -- spells out how to report the status of ARRA-funded projects, the number of jobs created by these activities and payments made to vendors.

A post on the administration's Recovery.gov Web site describes the document as a "preview" of the final data definitions, and adds that actual templates for submitting ARRA data will be available soon. Recipients of ARRA funds will submit the data electronically through a new Web site called FederalReporting.gov.

Nagging Questions

ARRA's reporting requirements have been a nagging question for state and local government officials ever since President Barack Obama signed the $787 billion economic stimulus package into law last winter. The Obama administration's desire to quickly pump money into the crumbling U.S. economy meant that ARRA dollars started flowing before all the rules were in place. As the first reporting deadline draws nearer, public officials are confronting the task of providing unprecedented visibility into how ARRA funds are spent and what value they deliver.

In a July 20 webcast, Danny Werfel, deputy controller of the OMB's Federal Financial Management Office, said states -- which are considered the "prime recipients" of stimulus funds -- have full responsibility for reporting ARRA expenditure data. But states also can delegate some of that reporting work to the sub-recipients such as local governments.

Market Heats Up

Meanwhile, software vendors have been busy spinning up ARRA reporting tools designed to help governments comply with ARRA mandates. More than a dozen vendors -- including industry heavyweights like Microsoft, IBM, CA and SAP -- now offer products for tracking and reporting how stimulus dollars are spent.