Introducing Recovery Explorer


More than a year has passed since President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Federal agencies have been distributing some $787 billion appropriated by the act to jump start the economy. According to, the Web site that tracks spending under the act, about 40 percent of that money has been spent, sent around the country in the form of contracts, grants, loans, tax benefits and entitlements.

The huge spending bill included funds for a mechanism to track spending under the bill, but getting a sense of which agencies have awarded the most money, or which states are reporting the most jobs funded, or which programs have spent the most money is complex. To help navigate the numbers, the Sunlight Foundation is releasing Recovery Explorer, which lets users visualize the size and scope of spending under the stimulus, and drill down to individual records.

Making sense of the more than 240,000 records in raw format from 50 states and approximately 210 awarding agencies can be challenging. Sunlight Foundation's Recovery Explorer helps users sift through the records, find out where the money is going and see trends in the data.

The data in Recovery Explorer comes from the cumulative record file, which was downloaded March 31, and will be updated as releases new data. Job numbers are from the 4th quarter 2009 only; displaying cumulative jobs data (which tracks stimulus activity from February through December 2009) would double count some jobs. Also, the Recovery Board changed its methodology from "jobs created or saved to jobs funded by stimulus dollars.

The Sunlight Recovery Explorer also allows users to connect prime recipients to sub-recipients very easily.

Here are some highlights from the data:

–There are more than 21,000 prime recipients of contracts, loans or grants, over 38,000 sub-recipients and more than 33,000 vendors that have provided a service to either a recipient or sub-recipient.

–While stimulus money includes infrastructure costs and overhead expenses, of course, each job reported as funded by the stimulus works out to about $230,000 in funds invested.

–At least 6 of the10 states receiving the most money are funding the most number of jobs in the 4th quarter of 2009. Michigan reported the most jobs funded, at about 130,000. Illinois ranked fifth in money received, but only 17th in jobs created.

Recovery Explorer is part of the Reporting Group's new Resources page, where we'll roll out tools and training materials for journalists, bloggers and citizens who want to better understand their government.