Watchdog: More than $2B in unused stimulus has expired

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The Department of Agriculture (USDA) had the largest amount of the expired funds at nearly $765 million, which can no longer be used for new projects. The money was appropriated to the agency by Congress, but not used by federally set deadlines. USDA said it allocated most of the expired funds to applicants who did not use them.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Energy were nearly tied for the second highest amount of expired funds, with each forfeiting about $242 million. 

Agencies will keep the expired stimulus funds on their balance sheets for an additional five fiscal years, in case prior appropriations were more expensive than projected. The agencies are not permitted to use the funds for new projects, however.

Once that five-year period passes, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the excess funds are considered “canceled” and returned to the Treasury’s general funds. At that point, Congress decides whether to spend the cash or let the Treasury direct the funds internally.

Of the 28 federal agencies to which Congress appropriated stimulus funds, the most amount of money under the stimulus went to the Department of Education — totaling $97.4 billion. Up until June 30, $83.6 billion had been awarded. The agency reported losing $13 million in expired funds.

The Department of Homeland Security received nearly $2.8 billion and the Social Security Administration received more than $1 billion from the law, but neither agency had any appropriated grants expire.

The $2 billion in expired funds is not unusual, according to one expert.

“We [the GAO] have looked at what plans agencies have in place to use the funds before they expire and how to deal with the expired amount,” said Edda Emmanuelli Perez, managing associate general counsel with the GAO. Agencies “typically have some balances available at the end of a fiscal year.”

— This story was updated at 5:46 p.m.