Coburn identifies $70 billion in unspent federal funds

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On Thursday, Republican Senator Tom Coburn has identified more than $70 billion in unspent federal funds that have been left idling in budgetary purgatory.

In a report released Thursday, Coburn said the funds were originally allocated for specific programs but have been left unspent and have been overlooked due to what the report calls “poorly drafted laws, bureaucratic obstacles and mismanagement, and a general lack of interest or demand from the communities to which this money was allocated.”

Examples highlighted by the “Money for Nothing” report include:

    The Emergency Homeowners Loan Program, which failed to disburse more than a half of the program’s $1 billion budget even as thousands of those eligible for assistance were denied aid.

    Nearly one in three highway dollars earmarked for highway projects since 1991 had not been spent as of 2011. In total, these unspent highway earmarks, referred to by some as “disappearmarks,” account for about $13 billion as of last year.

    Detroit failed to spend over $100 million in federal aid, including education assistance to help students in the worst-performing schools in the country.

    Maryland increased taxes to assist severely disabled residents, while the state’s Developmental Disabilities Administration sat on $38 million.

    $45 million — that was earmarked to develop a futuristic train that would whisk across the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas — is in limbo as a result of repetitive drafting errors.

“This,” the report continued, “shows how real people have been impacted due to Congress’ inability to ensure appropriated funds are spent. … For example, the report highlights billions in federal aid intended to help victims of Hurricane Katrina left unused, more than $1 billion of transportation funds idling, billions intended for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention unspent, and nearly one-fourth of Homeland Security disaster grants has been left unspent for the past nine years.”

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