Monday, December 14, 2009

Jordan Valley Doesn't Make Stimulus Cut


Another batch of economic stimulus money is heading to community health centers around the country, but Missouri has been shut out of the funds this round.

In all, twelve centers in Missouri, including Springfield's Jordan Valley Health Clinic, applied for a $500 million dollar pot of money to expand healthcare services. But the complete shutout of Missouri is raising questions about the process.

These awards were allocated through a competitive federal grant process. And Jordan Valley isn't quite sure why they fell short. But the decision will put a halt on plans for a new facility.

In its application, Jordan Valley said the project would create 100 construction jobs over two years and employ an additional 30 dental and behavioral health workers.

"The concern I would have is how proportionately the funds are distributed, whether we all had poor applications," said Jordan Valley CEO Brooks Miller, who expressed disappointment with the decision. "What is the criteria? Why was the money so distributed to the northeast or the west?," he asked.

Republican Sen. Kit Bond questioned whether the competitive bid process was run fairly.

"The Administration can’t tell me that the need for health services is any less in rural and urban Missouri than those communities funded in Massachusetts and California," Bond said, pointing to reports that showed Massachusetts receiving $80 million dollars and California getting $65 million dollars.

Bond also used the opportunity to tout the earmarking process -- where Senators insert pet projects into large appropriation bills.

"If they're going to have a stimulus then they should have a similarly transparent process and get some Congressional review," Bond said in an interview.

But the earmarking practice is being increasingly lambasted by conservatives and Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. McCaskill was unavailable for comment late Monday. But her communications director said their office had found no evidence that the competitive grant process had not been fair.

McCaskill spokeswoman Adrianne Marsh said grants were still preferable to earmarks, which are politically charged and potentially wasteful.

"If we're going to really correct our spending habits to address the out-of-control deficit, we're going to have to start ending the politics behind the earmarking process. That continues to be the bigger problem. We cannot continue to spend the public's money based on election goals, seniority and power in Congress. There has to be a level of accountability or we're never going to get our spending problems under control," Marsh said.

The criteria for winning grants varies by agency. They can be based on such factors as need, matching funds and the amount of jobs created.

Miller said Jordan Valley isn't sure yet how it will proceed and will go back to the drawing board on funding for an expansion.

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