Monday, September 19, 2011

New website lets users compare social indicators to federal spending

Making sense of the torrent of numbers coming from the federal government isn't easy, but the National Priorities Project made it a little easier recently with the launch of its Federal Priorities Database. The database is a Web-based tool tracks both federal spending and social indicators such as poverty rates and employment. Users can track and compare the amount of federal funding a state received for unemployment insurance versus the unemployment rate, for example.

With information for states, counties and school districts, the database provides valuable context and comparisons that could help guide future decisions.Nearly one in 12 Coloradans received food stamps in 2010, reflecting a rise of 80,000 people participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in 2010 compared to 2009. The federal government increased food stamp funding assistance to Colorado by more than $175 million from 2008 to 2009. Colorado received $60.5 million from the federal government to administer unemployment benefit programs in 2009, up from $39.7 million in 2008. Additionally, the number of unemployed Coloradans rose from 225,791 in 2009 to 239,684 in 2010.

The database contains school information as well. About 32 million students participate in the National School Lunch Program, including more than 400,000 in Colorado.That is just a sample of the information users can find at the Federal Priorities Database. The National Priorities Project is a federal budget research organization that works to make complex budget information transparent and accessible.

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