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Analysis finds stimulus confusion
WASHINGTON — The federal government sent Bob Bray $26,174 in economic stimulus aid to fix a fence and replace the roofs on public apartments in Blooming Grove, Texas, a town of fewer than 900 people outside Dallas. He hired five roofers and an inspector to do the job.

But the number of jobs he reported to the government looked very different — 450 jobs.

"Oh, no," said Bray, who runs the local public housing authority part-time with his wife, Linda, when asked about the discrepancy. He said that he told the government that he had created six jobs but that a federal official told him that wasn't right. So he reported the number of hours the roofers worked instead. The Department of Housing and Urban Development caught the mistake, but he couldn't fix it before the jobs figures were published. "The money was great, but the reports are really confusing," he said. "I've been fighting with it for over a month and a half."

The administration reported Friday that stimulus recipients reported having created or saved 640,329 jobs this year, a figure it said buttressed its contention that the $787 billion package has had a significant economic impact. The jobs total is based on reports of more than 130,000 recipients of stimulus grants and contracts filed with the federal government.

Obama's senior adviser for the stimulus, Ed DeSeve, said last week that officials had "scrubbed" those reports for three weeks before they were released Friday, though he said some would still have errors.

USA TODAY reviewed the reports to determine the number of jobs created or saved per stimulus dollar. The review found 14 recipients that reported saving or creating more than 100 jobs for less than $1,500 per job — suggesting they overreported the number of jobs. Those included:

•The police department in Plymouth, Conn., claimed in its report that a $15,355 grant used to buy new computers had created or saved 108 jobs. The department had 22 law enforcement officers last year, according to the FBI. Mayor Vincent Festa said that the town has resorted to "counting paper clips" to save money but that it had no plans to lay off any of its police officers, even without the stimulus. He said he could not explain the report, and the town's police chief did not return telephone calls Monday.

•The Southwest Georgia Community Action Council, which employs about 500 people in its Head Start preschool program, reported creating or saving 935 jobs with about $1.3 million in funding. Beverly Wise, the group's fiscal officer, said she followed the advice of federal officials to come up with the number. "I thought it was high," Wise said of the number she reported, adding that the process was confusing. The group is using its stimulus money to give a 1.84% pay raise to its employees and pay for other needs such as playground equipment and training for the teachers who serve 2,300 low-income children.

Teach for America, which helps place recent graduates in teaching jobs in urban and rural districts, reported that a $2 million grant created or saved 1,425 jobs. Spokeswoman Kerci Marcello Stroud said officials used that money to pay part of the salaries of 125 employees; a separate $6 million allowed it to expand the training program to include 1,300 more graduates.

Liz Oxhorn, a spokeswoman for the White House stimulus effort, said the reports give "the American people one of the best looks ever at real-time information about a major initiative" and the reporting "allows people to find any mistakes, as it should — which will help us correct them promptly."

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