About “On the Money” — This column is meant to be a conversation about the federal stimulus package as the Texas State Comptroller's office tracks how the money is spent in Texas.

The $787 billion federal stimulus package has set off a gold rush of sorts as individuals, businesses, schools and governments are looking for help wherever they can find it. A trickle of federal stimulus dollars is hitting the wallets of Texans. The torrent is coming.

Later this month about 350,000 jobless Texans will begin getting an extra $25 a week as mandated by Congress.

By April, almost 2.8 million food-stamp recipients in Texas will get a 13.6 percent increase in their monthly benefits. The average benefit will bump up $38 to $314.

Also, many Texans in April could see more money in their take-home pay through tax cuts. The increase will be up to $400 a year for an individual and up to $800 for a couple. The tax cut, however, phases out for individuals making more than $75,000 a year and couples making more than $150,000. The idea is that individuals are more likely to spend a few extra dollars each week as opposed to just banking a one-time tax refund.

Meanwhile, state government is preparing how to spend the federal billions flowing to it.

The Texas Department of Transportation appears shovel-ready.

Transportation officials hope to be letting the first stimulus contracts - as much as $750 million - during April alone. Overall, they approved $1.2 billion for 29 construction projects and another $500 million for maintenance and repairs.

Who knows, the orange traffic cone could join the bolo (tie), the jalapeno (pepper) and chili (dish) as official state symbols by the time we get out of this economic pothole.

Warning to Austin drivers: One of the early contracts will be for the re-paving of MoPAC from The Domain shopping center towards Oak Hill.

Meanwhile, Texas students could be hitting the books (as in new textbooks) if the Legislature follows a recommendation by the Texas Education Agency to spend $900 million of stimulus money on that item.

That $900 million is part of $3.9 billion that can be used to plug holes in education programs. There's another $2.2 billion in grants available to schools. Since the school year is almost over, the greatest impact of the new spending should show up in the classrooms this fall.

Across state government, much of the new spending will be through existing programs, but there also could be new ones created.

The Comptroller's office has posted a spreadsheet on the estimated $15 to $16 billion available through state agencies. We're updating that information to show where people can apply for funding. Check back for that.

It'll be a good place to start if you're panning for some of that gold.

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