It might be a snowy week between the holidays, but the discussion about stimulus funds disappearing is a hot topic. This morning, Good Day Philadelphia Anchor Mike Jerrick asked Mayor Nutter about our story on stimulus funding going away. You can watch the full interview here.

We're glad the story is getting so much attention, since it's a complicated topic that has important ramifications for the city and region. But what does it all mean? Is it time to panic? Sure, it's a bad situation, but here are a couple of important points to remember about stimulus funds drying up.

1. Most agencies aren't facing budget deficits because of the stimulus. Our story looked at five different public agencies that got stimulus funding. Of that group, only one-- the School District of Philadelphia-- is dealing with a projected operating budget deficit in the next fiscal year that is related to the stimulus funds dying up. City government, PennDOT, Philadelphia Housing Authority, and SEPTA all used stimulus money to fund one-time projects like repairing bridges, upgrading transit stations. These agencies will have less money for capital projects going forward, but that's not an immediate concern for the next budget cycle. However, it could mean that fewer people will be working, reducing tax revenue. That would have an impact on the city budget, although not right away.

2. The end of stimulus funds is not unexpected. It's certainly big news that stimulus funds are running out, but it's not exactly shocking. The stimulus was always intended to be temporary, with most grants having specific deadlines for when the money needed to be spent. The real surprise has been the weakness of the national economy, which policy-makers at the federal level assumed would be almost fully recovered by now, replacing lost stimulus money with tax revenue. Economic recovery has been slower than many expected, which makes the loss of stimulus funds even more worrying.

3. Most decisions about the stimulus are not made at the local level. The Daily News article focused on how specific local agencies used the stimulus, but it's important to remember that most of the choices about how the money would be spent were made at the federal level. President Obama and Congress are the ones who decided how much the stimulus should be and when it would run out. Also, rules at the federal level guided how the money would be spent locally. For example, SEPTA picked which stations to fix up, but it was the Federal Transportation Administration that directed the money to be used to improve transit systems in the first place.

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