Subsidy Tracker User Guide
Subsidy Tracker 3.0 User Guide
Subsidy Tracker brings together subsidy recipient data from more than 600 state, local and federal economic development programs and other forms of financial assistance to business. We have put the information into a standardized set of categories to allow the user to search across many states and programs at the same time.
We first introduced Subsidy Tracker in 2010, with initial content of 43,000 subsidy awards from 124 state programs in 27 states. Over the next three years we focused on adding data from more programs in more states, eventually extending our coverage to all 50 states and the District of Columbia (though the breadth of the available data varies greatly from state to state). In addition to collecting information that had been posted online, we also submitted open records requests for unpublished data, both to state and selected local agencies.
In 2014 we added a major new feature to the database: the inclusion of parent company data for a substantial portion of the entries. In addition to adding this information to the individual entries, we have created summary pages for each of the parents we have identified so far; those pages are described more fully below. We called that new version Subsidy Tracker 2.0.
Tracker 2.0 also incorporated a feature called MEGADEALS. It consists of entries on every subsidy package worth at least $75 million we could find from the past three decades (subsequently expanded to deals worth $60 million or more.) These entries draw not only from the official disclosure data otherwise used in Tracker but also fills gaps in that data by using a variety of other information sources.
In 2015 we expanded the database to the federal level with the addition of more than 160,000 entries covering 137 federal programs. This brought us to Subsidy Tracker 3.0
Subsidy Tracker 2.0 and 3.0 were created with the invaluable help of Rich Puchalsky of Grassroots Connection. Rich created the system that generates the parent-subsidiary matches (which we also check manually); he built the underlying databases; and he programmed and designed the search pages. He also processes the data collected by Good Jobs First staffers to keep the site up to date.
Accessing the Data
1. Summary Pages
Parent Summary Pages. The first way to access Tracker data is by viewing various summary pages that are linked at the top of the search form. The largest number of these are the 1,833 parent company summary pages we have created through the addition of parent links in about 72,000 individual entries.
The parent pages include the following features:
- Basic information on the company: ownership status, headquarters location and industry.
- Subsidy Summary. A table summarizing the number of subsidy awards and the total dollar value of those subsidies linked to the company through its units and subsidiaries. State and local awards are tallied separately from federal awards. The state/local total may be adjusted to reflect the fact that in some cases the amounts in our Megadeal entries overlap with the amounts in our entries from specific subsidy programs.
- Loan/Bailout Summary. The summary tables also contain lines showing the number and value of federal loan, loan guarantee and bailout awards received by the parent and its affiliates. We keep these separate because the available amounts refer to the face value or principal and do not indicate whether the loans have been repaid or whether the government had to make good on a loan guarantee. The loan amounts are thus not equivalent to subsidy amounts, but their existence is essential to understanding the full scope of federal business assistance. Subsidy Tracker has not begun to systematically collect state and local loan data.
- Time Periods. An indication of the time period during which the state and local awards occurred. All federal awards are for the period from FY2000 to the present.
- Associated Names. A list of the names of the units and subsidiaries that received those awards. In some cases these lists have to be truncated.
- Links. Links to several other useful sources of information on the parent company. Depending on availability, these include links to: Citizen for Tax Justice-Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy tax dodger page; Corporate Rap Sheets produced by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First; information from a Sunlight Foundation report called Fixed Fortunes on how the company's spending on federal political influence compares to its federal subsidies and contractors; and information from Maplight on how the company's political spending relates to its position on proposed legislation.
- Top 5 States. A table showing the top states in which the company's state/local awards were given.
- Individual Subsidy Records. A sortable table of links to all the individual Tracker entries associated with the company.
Next to the parent dropdown menu is a link to a page showing the 100 companies with the largest amount of total subsidy awards. Below the dropdown is a link to a page detailing the extent of the parent matching we have completed so far.
State Summary Pages. The second dropdown menu provides access to state summary pages. These pages show aggregate subsidy amounts awarded in the state, whether by a state or local agency; indicate the time period covered; list the 10 parent companies with the most subsidies in the state; and provide a list of all the subsidy awards in the state in descending order by subsidy value. Awards by federal agencies to companies located in the state are not included on these pages.
Next to the state summary dropdown is a link to a page ranking the states by their state/local subsidy totals.
Federal Summary Pages. The third dropdown menu provides access to four different pages summarizing federal awards. The first of these is an overview of which companies have received federal grants and allocated tax credits (i.e., those awarded by a government agency to a specific company). The page shows national totals for such awards and then displays a list of the ten parent companies with the largest amounts. Below that is a table of all grants and allocated tax credits shown in descending order of value.
The next item on the dropdown is a similar page focusing on federal loans, loan guarantees, bailout assistance and tax-exempt bonds. As noted above, we tally these categories separately because the available data does not reflect repayment amounts.
The other two items on the dropdown are summary pages by federal program -- one page for grants and allocated tax credits and another page for loans, loan guarantees, bailout assistance and tax-exempt bonds.
2. Searching by Company Name or Other Variables
This option allows the user to enter a single variable or multiple ones in searching for subsidy awards. The variables are as follows:
- Company: This field can be used if the target company is not one of our list of parents. The name can be searched in five different ways: Starting with the letters or words entered; Is equal to (exactly matches) the letters or words entered; Contains any one of the words entered; Contains all of the words entered; or Ends with the value entered.
- Text: free-text search for words or phrases contained in any of the Tracker data fields, including the Notes.
- Level of Government: Searches can be restricted to state/local awards or to federal awards. The default choice is all levels of government.
- Subsidy Value: results can be restricted to particular value ranges by choosing one of the following: Is greater than, Is greater than or equal to, Is equal to, or Is less than or equal to. Note that amounts must be entered as plain digits with no dollar signs or commas; e.g. enter $1 million as 1000000.
- Loan/Bailout Face Value: Does the same as the previous item but searches the loan or bailout amount, which is in a separate field from subsidy amount.
- Type of Subsidy: use the dropdown menu to choose one of the standard categories we used (including MEGADEAL). Federal awards all are listed in one of five types, each of which begins with the word "federal."
- Year: use the dropdown to limit search results to those reported for a given year.
- Subsidy Source: This dropdown allows searches to be limited to federal awards or to state/local awards given in a specific state. If "federal" is chosen from the dropdown, additional dropdowns will appear allowing the search to be limited to a specific federal program (by name or by Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance code), to a specific federal agency or to awards whose recipient company is located in a specific state. Not all listings have data on the state in which the recipient is located. The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance is a system used by the federal government to categorize most (but far from all) grant and loan programs.
If a state is chosen from the Subsidy Source dropdown, additional dropdowns will appear allowing the searching to be limited to a specific program offered in that state or to recipient companies located in specific city or county. Many entries do not include locality information, so searching by city or county will often yield incomplete results.
After choices have been made from the categories above and the search button has been pressed, the site will display a search results page with a limited set of fields:
- Recipient Company Name
- Parent Company Name (if the recipient has been matched to a parent)
- Location (state name for state or local entries; U.S. for federal entries)
- Subsidy Source: The level of government (state, local or federal) of the agency which awarded the subsidy. Some Megadeal entries have "multiple" in this field to indicate that the subsidy package included state as well as local components.
- Year of Award
- Subsidy Value or Loan/Bailout Face Value (an entry may have one or the other)
- Type of Subsidy
The recipient company name is hyperlinked to the individual entry for the award, which contains additional information (see below). If a parent name appears, it is linked to the summary page for the parent company. The table can be sorted by any of the columns.
Data Fields for Individual Entries
Government agencies in most cases do not adhere to any standard set of data fields in their subsidy reporting (a notable exception is the federal government's USASpending.gov website, discussed below). Each program’s data thus had to be rearranged and relabeled to conform to a standard set of fields we chose. Rarely did a given program provide data for every one of our 25 fields. Individual entries display only those fields for which we have data.
The following is the full set of data fields that may appear:
Company: The name of the company as it appears in the original source, with some obvious typos corrected.
Parent Company: The ultimate owner of the recipient firm, as derived from research using outside sources such as the Croctail compilation of the subsidiary lists that publicly traded companies are required to include in their 10-K filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These entries are hyperlinked to the summary page for that parent. More details on parent company coverage can be found here.
Subsidy Source: The level of government (state, local or federal) of the agency which awarded the subsidy. Some Megadeal entries have "multiple" in this field to indicate that the subsidy package included state as well as local components.
Location: given that each state/local recipient list is from a specific state, we simply added the state name for those entries. For federal entries see the next field.
State in Which Facility is Located: For federal entries this indicates the physical location of the recipient company rather than the source of the subsidy. Not all entries have this information because it is sometimes absent from the source documents we use to compile the data.
City, County, Street Address and ZIP Code: data relating to the location of the subsidized facility (not the headquarters of the company). These, too, are presented exactly as they appear in the data source, though some obvious typos are corrected.
NAICS: The North American Industry Classification System is the federal government’s standard system for classifying companies according to the nature of their business activity. A limited number of subsidy programs include this information in their reporting system.
Project description: A limited number of programs describe the activity of the subsidized facility. For film subsidy programs this is the name of the film or other production.
Year: The year in which a specific subsidy (or portion of a multi-year subsidy) was awarded or disbursed. When the data relate to a fiscal year, this is indicated in the Notes field below.
Subsidy value: The dollar amount specific in the source document. We indicate in the Notes whether the amount is an actual or a projected amount (the latter being common in projects in which payouts are based on company performance with regard to job creation or investment). We converted amounts showing cents to full-dollar figures. In programs with many recipients we sometimes eliminated listings involving minimal amounts. Entries with negative amounts or zero were also deleted.
Value of Loan, Loan Guarantee or Bailout Assistance: For federal entries involving awards of these types (or tax-exempt bonds), this entry shows the face value or principal of the award. It excludes repayment amounts, which are not readily available in the data sources we use. We do not regard the face value as equivalent to a subsidy and thus put this amount in a separate field.
Program name: we used the program name given on the data source. You can see a list of the programs included in the database by looking at the Inventory of Data Sources. Listings of city and county programs begin with the name of the locality.
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance code: a numbering system used by the federal government to categorize many but not all of its grant and loan programs.
Agency: the name of the state, local or federal agency involved in awarding or overseeing the program, and often the entity responsible for reporting the recipient data.
Type of subsidy: we divided the various subsidy programs into 16 broad categories -- 11 for state/local program and 5 for federal programs:
State/local subsidy types
- tax credit/rebate – these include corporate income tax credits, sales tax exemptions and other programs in which a company’s tax obligation is reduced or the firm is rebated taxes previously paid.
- property tax abatement – most taxes on real property and business personal property are paid at the local level, but we include some programs in which the state allows companies to reduce their payments for the state and/or local portions of their property tax obligations, usually by reducing the valuation of property subject to the tax.
- MEGADEAL - Those entries on subsidy packages worth $60 million or more each that were compiled using not only official disclosure sources.
- grant/low-cost loan – these include a variety of programs in which corporations are awarded a specific amount of money outright or in connection with meeting job performance or other goals. Also included are a limited number of programs that are technically loans but in many cases are “forgivable,” meaning that the company may not have to pay back the money if certain goals are met.
- enterprise zone – programs tied to investment in specific geographic areas that often bundle a variety of state and/or local tax breaks.
- tax increment financing - subsidies based on the diversion of a portion of property taxes linked to an increase in assessed value brought about by redevelopment (sometimes based on sales taxes).
- training reimbursement – programs that pay for or reimburse companies for the cost of training new or existing workers.
- cost reimbursement – programs, usually involving film production, that reimburse companies for specific expenditures (other than worker training) in the state.
- infrastructure assistance – programs that cover costs such as installation of utilities or building of private roads at a company facility.
- industrial revenue bond - low-cost financing based on tax-exempt bonds.
- tax credit/rebate and grant – programs that combine tax credits/rebates with grants
- tax credit/rebate; property tax abatement – programs that combine income or sales-tax credits or rebates with property tax abatements.
Federal subsidy types
- federal grant
- federal allocated tax credit (those awarded to specific companies)
- federal loan or loan guarantee
- federal insurance (e.g. political risk insurance provided by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation)
- federal tax-exempt bond (e.g. Gulf Opportunity Zone bonds)
Number of Jobs or Training Slots: The number of jobs to be created or retained at a subsidized facility as a result of the financial assistance. In the case of training subsidies, this is the number of training slots. The Notes indicate whether the job number is projected (i.e., what the company promises) or actual (reported after the fact).
Wage Data and Wage Data Type: Some programs include information on the quality of the jobs created or retained. This may be an hourly wage rate, an annual salary figure or an aggregate payroll figure (which can be divided by the number of jobs to get a rough salary estimate). The Wage Data field shows the dollar figure; the Wage Data Type field indicates the category.
Capital Investment: Some programs indicate the amount that the company is investing in the subsidized project. The Notes indicate whether the amount is projected or actual.
Source of Data: Where the information came from. In cases where the source is online, the web address is given.
Notes: This field clarifies issues relating to the other categories and provides additional details.
Sources Notes: This is a standard insertion for each individual entry noting that in instances in which the online data source above is not working, the user should check the Tracker inventory page, which is updated more frequently than all the individual entries.
Search results can be downloaded to a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet or as an XML file. Because of its large size, the entire database cannot be downloaded. If you wish to request a full spreadsheet for non-commercial purposes, contact Good Jobs First Research Director Philip Mattera at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Apart from the Megadeal entries, most of the content comes from official state, local or federal government online sources. These include some sites that provide downloadable spreadsheets, but most of them are either: interactive databases that display search results on webpages; static HTML pages with lists of recipient names; static PDF documents; or other formats such as Microsoft Word documents. We converted these lists into spreadsheet form.
A full list of document sources can be found here. An update log can be found here. A large number of federal grant and loan entries come from the USASpending.gov website, which also contains other data (grants to state and local governments and to non-profit entities, federal contracts, etc.) that we do not capture.
In some cases, state or local agencies agreed to give us data considered public information but not previously posted online. We made the requests either through informal inquiries or formal freedom of information filings. In a few instances, we include data from FOIA requests made by other organizations.
Last updated March 17, 2015
Learn more about subsidy practices and controversial deals in this resource covering each of the 50 states and Washington, DC.