Like the Mary Sudik oil well 79 years ago, money is gushing from Washington with a suddenness and ferocity never before seen.
The famed oil gusher in Oklahoma City was one of the most spectacular incidents in oil field development. The crew of the Mary Sudick No. 1 lost control of the well and it sprayed oil up to 10 miles away. It took 12 days to cap it.
In much the same way, money is spewing from the nation’s capitol. Congress has opened the spigots via the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as ARRA or the stimulus bill.
It is not likely the situation will repeat itself and governments, non-profits and small business are scrambling to maneuver their bucket to collect all they can.
The state’s share of stimulus money it will receive represents an average of $1,127 per Oklahoma resident, according to U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s office. The bad news is someone will have to pay for all this: If Oklahomans were required to pay for their share of the overall stimulus package, they would get a bill for about $8,000.
Cash is being paid to the state through a formula for a variety of projects from early childhood education, roads, the Port of Catoosa to salaries of people paid to see that the money is spent as intended.
Oklahoma is receiving $464 million for transportation, including the remaking of more than 40 bridges of the Inner Dispersal Loop, according to Inhofe’s office. The state Water Resources Board is getting $64 million, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is getting $83.7 million for the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System and another $12.7 million is designated Port maintenance.
“The government has done a good job getting much of the money out the door,” said Jared Young, Inhofe’s spokesman. “But a lot of money is stuck in the pipeline.”
Tulsa’s share of the stimulus package is broken down into four categories — money available, money awarded, money applied and money spent. Money is awarded in energy, infrastructure, poverty and opportunity, crime and technology.
Total money available for areas like energy ($3 million), infrastructure ($8 million), poverty and opportunity ($2 million) and crime ($2 million) totals $18 million.
Money awarded for energy ($1.6 million), infrastructure ($15 million), poverty and opportunity ($2 million) and crime (zero dollars) totals $19.5 million.
Cash applied for energy ($4.3 million), infrastructure (zero dollars), poverty and opportunity ($2 million) and crime ($23 million) totals $30 million.
According to the city Web site, no money has been spent.
The Kaiser Factor
Self-made billionaire businessman George Kaiser, chairman of BOK Financial Corp., told the Rotary Club of Tulsa audience this month he intends “to get as much of it (stimulus funds) to Tulsa that we possibly can.”
About $40 million in federal stimulus aid is headed to Tulsa through Kaiser’s effort with the largest share to early childhood learning and health care projects.
“We are working to get Tulsa selected for pilot projects in various programs,” he said, including programs like Promise Neighborhoods, an effort to test strategies to improve academic achievement and life outcomes in high-poverty areas. The Kaiser Family Foundation has the ability to match any stimulus-backed projects — a huge advantage in winning grants, he said.
Kaiser is working with consultant Jim East, principal of Strategies For Oklahoma LLC, on attracting stimulus money for Tulsa, the state and specific projects for non-profit organizations.
For example, the Tulsa Industrial Authority won an energy conservation block grant. The cash, which came from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, aided energy conservation in the Brady Village. The Kaiser Foundation helped draft the application and offered a matching component.
The Kaiser Foundation is able to leverage its money, which makes these applications that much stronger, East said.
“We have the unique advantage of saying ‘whatever you do, we can match it with private funding,’” Kaiser said.
“We’ve made effective grant requests for $40 million,” Kaiser told the Rotary audience. “We’ve made multiple trips to Washington and have seen all the key players in the West Wing of the White House.”
Kaiser, president, CEO and primary owner of GBK Corp., parent of Kaiser-Francis Oil Co., has told Washington officials, “We will watch over it because we do not want to be embarrassed with the way our money is spent. So, we do not think you will be embarrassed by the way your money is spent either.”
East said there are a variety of things “still in play” as the state receives money that is formula driven.
“We have been doing a lot of work reaching out to help other non-profits and government entities look at various programs.” he said.
He is working with city, county and public entities to identify sources of stimulus money. Projects are expected to “come to fruition” in the next two to three months.
“All these programs are in different stages. Some have been awarded, some we have been told are going to get funded,” East said. “Others are in submission.”
Where is it?
A study by the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that about 50 percent more cash, per person, is headed toward communities that supported President Obama during last year’s campaign — compared to counties that did not support Obama. The bureau has been able to track the first $17 billion locally. The administration denies politics are in play.
The study shows that “Obama” counties stimulus aid doubles the money going to counties who backed Sen. John McCain. The estimated value per person in the “blue” counties is $69 a person, while the McCain counties are seeing only $34 per person on average.
In Tulsa, meanwhile, work goes on to win competitive proposals. The goal is to get as much for Tulsa as possible, East said.
“I am hesitant to say what projects because those decisions have not been announced,” East said. “They are more long-term, more business orientated.”
Businesses are not shy about applying for the money. Following Kaiser’s Rotary speech, an attorney from a “large publicly traded company” called East and asked to visit with them about stimulus ideas.
“We are trying to get support and information to privately held as well as publicly traded companies,” East said.
Tulsa Public Schools will take advantage of stimulus cash that came on July 10. TPS received the first of two $5.4 million checks for special education funding.
The money will fund salaries and pay for equipment to aid the education of the handicapped and provide for job training and help them make the transition into society, said Mary Guinn, Ph.D., deputy superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools.
Money will be spent on physiologists, transition teachers, administrators at the central office, school-based staff, testing materials, computer equipment and instructional supplies, Guinn said.
A major amount, $2.3 million, will pay for services TPS provides out of its general fund. Staff costs will be covered by the stimulus money. The district has opened at least five jobs. One, executive director for secondary school reformation, will improve the dropout rate, prepare students for the ACT and keep up with federal requirements. That position will pay $90,000 a year. A staffing specialist will earn $80,000 a year to ensure teachers are qualified. An accounting tech will be paid $60,000 a year to assure high-tech equipment is where it’s supposed to be.
The money has to be spent by September 2011. The district is prepared to sustain the programs, launched by this stimulus cash, she said.
“We plan for five-year programs in order to project and predict which ones we can sustain after the money is gone,” Guinn said.
After 2011, the dollars the district needs will come from federal monies as the special education expenses return to the general budget.
“Long-term, our goal is to absorb these programs and services,” Guinn said.
Tulsa is repairing the Inner Dispersal Loop with $75 million in federal stimulus cash. The repaving will be completed in a fraction of the time it would have normally taken without the federal dollars, said Oklahoma transportation officials.
The impact of the federal money means the project, set to run 580 days and last until early 2011, will be done in 36 months, compared to the eight to 10 years it would take if the state had to fund the project.
“This is a game-changer,” said Region VIII Transportation Commissioner Pete Regan.
The reconstruction of the inner-dispersal loop will also boost the economy as 600 direct and indirect jobs will be created, according to Bob Ball, Tulsa Chamber economist. The project will create an estimated $137 million economic impact over the course of the project.
The four-mile IDL encircles downtown and averages 62,000 vehicles daily. The project will re-deck more than 40 bridges on the north and west side of the IDL.
“Without this stimulus money, it would take us eight to 10 years what it being done in 18 months,” said Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley. ?′