Time to ZIP It?

Stimulus Reporting Creates Phantom ZIP Codes, Money To and From Other States

In November, I wrote about the "Luckiest ZIP code in Michigan", which, according to the official Web site that tracks federal stimulus dollars, was a ZIP code in Lansing. Further review of all 674 ZIP codes on the Michigan list, cross-checked with United States Postal Service ZIP Code lookup finds $573,161 in federal stimulus money went to five ZIP codes in Michigan that do not exist. $1,254,110 went to ZIP codes in other states, including $1,143,025 that went to ZIP Code 55411 (Minneapolis, Minn.) and created zero jobs, according to recovery.gov as seen below:

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Minneapolis Stimulus Money shows up in Michigan's Stimulus data

Here are the "Phantom" ZIP codes in Michigan, how much each received and a review of the errors:

  • $407,884 to ZIP Code 48828 (Close examination of the voluminous stimulus reporting spreadsheet, which you can find here, shows this money actually went to ZIP code 48838, in Greenville, MI)
  • $96,207 to ZIP Code 49558 (this money actually went to ZIP 49854, in Manistique)
  • $53,944 to ZIP Code 49308 (this money actually went to ZIP Code 49307, in Big Rapids)
  • $9,734 to ZIP Code 48058 (this money actually went to the Livingston Oakland Human Service Agency.)
  • $5,392 to ZIP Code 48781 (this money actually went to ZIP code 49781, in Mackinac County)

In addition to Minneapolis, Amherst, Mass., and Berlin, Mass., managed to get $32,909 and $78,176, respectively, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Like the Phantom Congressional Districts I wrote about in November, my fellow investigative reporters in the watchdog.org network were the first to discover and write about these ZIP code errors. In fact, you can read more here, including an update with comments from transparency board official Ed Pound. Again, the story is gaining national momentum, with mentions in today's World Net Daily and Drudge Report, among others.

While some may see these errors as trivial, keep in mind that recovery.gov operates on an $84 million budget. For such a hefty taxpayer funded price-tag, there should be few questions about the accuracy and reliability of stimulus data.

As my colleague, Steven Allen Adams of West Virginia Watchdog very aptly noted, "Hey, if amazon.com spits back your order when your state, city, or ZIP code don't jive, then why can't recovery.gov?"

By the way, about that $1,143,025 going to Minneapolis. There may be some consolation, albeit small. Another colleague, Tom Steward of the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, discovered in the Minnesota ZIP Code list that Engadine, which is actually in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, is in line for $75,778.