City Hires Budget Deputy To Oversee Stimulus Funds

Almost a year after the $787 billion federal stimulus package was announced, Philadelphia has hired a staffer to manage the city's grant applications, spending and reporting to the federal government.

Budget Director Stephen Agostini said Maari Porter -- who currently works for the government in the United Kingdom -- has accepted the job of deputy budget director for recovery. She will start work on February 8 and her salary is set at $97,000, but with furlough days, it will be $95,000 this year.

Agostini said that he will retain the title of recovery officer and will continue to oversee the city's efforts, along with communications with the federal government and other municipalities. But Porter will handle more of the day to day management of the city grants, contracts and the detailed reporting required by the federal government.

"Having a person dedicated to following those rules and requirements is very critical," Agostini said.

President Obama signed the $787 billion economic stimulus package -- designed to boost the economy through tax breaks, enhanced social programs and grant funding -- into law almost a year ago. Through October, Philadelphia had received $157 million in grant funding for projects like street repaving, hiring police officers and green jobs training.

But the city's management of stimulus dollars was somewhat bumpy last year. Responsibility for overseeing grant applications and spending shifted among several officials before landing with Agostini in the fall. When Agostini took the helm, he said that the city's efforts to manage stimulus dollars had been hampered by limited communication between departments. And actually getting funds and spending them moved more slowly than expected.

Porter currently works for the prime minister's cabinet office in the United Kingdom, Agostini said. She previously worked in the deputy prime minister's office, focusing on local issues.

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