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SFO to return $2.1 million in misspent stimulus funds

The Federal Aviation Administration will take back $2.1 million in stimulus funds that it gave to San Francisco International Airport because the money was used improperly, according to the Department of Transportation’s inspector general.

The airport received $14.5 million in stimulus funds to improve runways and taxiways, which was completed in 2010. But the inspector general said in a report earlier this month that $2.1 million was used for unauthorized construction. It is unclear what specifically the money was spent on.

It is the second time in two years that the San Francisco airport has been found to be misusing federal stimulus money.

The airport disclosed to bondholders in January that it was conducting an internal review of how it spends grant funds and is “working to improve its internal controls and procedures to ensure compliance with its Federal grant agreements.”

SFO spokesman Doug Yakel said the airport is still awaiting the completion of a final audit of the federal grants. But he said the “$2.1 million recovery described in the DOT report would not have an appreciable effect on SFO.”


The airport repaid $137,000 to the Transportation Security Administration after a 2011 audit found it had made $303,000 in questionable payments to a construction management firm with funds that were intended for a baggage inspection system.


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Ticket amnesty generates windfall for some counties

Last year, the state made a deal with Californians who had overdue traffic tickets.

They would only owe half the fines and fees if they paid off their debts between January and June of this year. In exchange, the state would share the money collected with local governments and trial courts.

So far, that amnesty program has generated millions of dollars of much-needed revenue, according to preliminary estimates from local governments and the state's trial courts, which collect the funds.

The program, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in October, has provided an unexpected windfall for some counties. Los Angeles County has collected about $6 million. In other counties, like Contra Costa, which has collected $385,337, and Santa Clara County, which has collected more than $175,000, the revenue has provided a more modest infusion of cash.


But in some cases, the cost of collecting the revenue outweighed the benefits.

In San Mateo County, for example, the court and county collected $31,350, of which $28,740 went to collections services and to pay a contractor to reprogram the online traffic system that people use to pay fines. The remaining $2,610 covered the time staff spent setting up and tracking the program.

“In hindsight, it probably wasn’t worth it,” said Neal Taniguchi, director of finance for the San Mateo County Superior Court. “We really didn’t make any money off of it. We ended up having to spend more time to make sure people qualified for the program, and we spent a considerable amount of time setting up the program.”


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Racial minorities more willing to spend on cancer care

Cancer patients who are racial minorities, especially black Americans, are more willing than their white counterparts to exhaust personal financial resources to prolong life, according to a study published today in the journal Cancer.

In a study of 4,214 people recently diagnosed with lung or colorectal cancer, including some in California, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that 80 percent of blacks were willing to spend all their personal finances to extend life, while 72 percent of Asians, 69 percent of Hispanics and 54 percent of whites were willing to do so.

"As new cancer-treatment options emerge, patients are asked to make complex decisions that often involve tradeoffs between quality and quantity of life," lead author Michelle Martin, an assistant professor at the university's Division of Preventive Medicine, said in a statement. "Our results highlight the fact that personal finances can influence the decisions patients make about their treatment."

Research has shown that minorities are more likely to want and receive more aggressive end-of-life care. A 2006 report by the California HealthCare Foundation found that 44 percent of the state's Latinos and African Americans, and 28 percent of Asians, believed doctors and nurses should do everything possible in all circumstances to save a patient, whereas only 14 percent of whites held this opinion.


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