SV: We are comfortable that our state did a good job of managing our ARRA funds in the best achievable way, in accordance with the law.
Some ARRA opponents contend that the funds should have been given to individuals and families rather than agencies and companies. What do you think?
SV: I think that this criticism is nonsensical. ARRA funds did go to families and individuals, directly and indirectly. For example, ARRA enhanced energy assistance funds, the beneficiaries of which are homeowners — individuals and families. ARRA provided for tax incentives many beneficiaries of which were individuals and families. The fact that agencies in the public and private sphere were employed as means to distribute the funds does not mean that the benefit did not flow directly to individuals and families.
ES: I would point out that ARRA funds were distributed under the general categories of tax benefits, entitlements, and contracts, grants and loans. So, in essence, a considerable portion of the funding directly benefited individuals and families. As for the funds that were disbursed to agencies and companies, I believe the resulting economic development, or sustainment in many cases, together with the associated job creation and retention, brought corresponding benefits to many individuals and families.
JS: If you divide the amount of ARRA funds that went through state agencies by the number of Massachusetts residents, the result is about $600 per person per year for two years. If you include the funds that went directly to recipients with the funds that went through the state, the number becomes about $850. It is difficult to speculate what would have happened had we distributed those funds to the people of Massachusetts. However, it is not hard to imagine that those funds would have either been spent on consumables or put in the bank. The funds would not have been spent on teachers, police officers, roads, sewage treatment plants, medical research, advanced battery technology or the many other projects and programs that ARRA funded. The choice is to spend the money immediately on consumables and saving, or to prime the economic pump through investment in longer term, worthwhile projects combined with shorter term economic stabilization. I come down on the side of the more future-oriented approach that not only puts people to work today, but also leaves us with a legacy of good works.