Stimulus Millions Slow to Create W.Va. Jobs - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Stimulus Millions Slow to Create W.Va. Jobs

Republican leaders are describing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 as a dismal failure. Democrats, meanwhile, counter with reminders that President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package is only a few months into a two-year plan to lead the nation out of recession. Millions of federal dollars have been pumped into the West Virginia economy to improve the education system, roads, bridges and infrastructure, but the state’s jobless rate increased in June for the 10th consecutive month, reaching 9.4 percent. That number represented an increase of 1.1 percent over the previous month and brought the state closer to the national unemployment rate of 9.5 percent. Perhaps through a combination of seasonal employment and stimulus funding, construction gained 400 jobs in West Virginia during June. That was offset, however, by a loss of 500 jobs in the mining and logging industries. As of June 30, the state Department of Transportation reported 495 directly created or sustained jobs, resulting in 21,766 work hours and a payroll of $617,760. State Secretary of Transportation Paul Mattox said in April that 25 projects worth $29.5 million had been approved through stimulus funding. In May, the state received an additional $6 million for programs, such as transportation enhancement, recreational trails, scenic byways and safe routes to schools. The projects require a minimum 20 percent in sponsor-matching funds. Of the total stimulus money approved by Congress, only 6 percent, or roughly $48 billion, is going to transportation. Of those transportation dollars, only a small percentage has been spent, according to The Associated Press. Right now, most of the money is going to projects that already were planned, approved and ready to go, including paving projects and other highway improvements. The DOH, for example, has been placing signs near highway projects on most of the state’s interstates to proclaim which projects have been funded with stimulus dollars. While West Virginia and other states have to spend money on projects that are ready to proceed, federally funded projects are required to ensure they don’t harm the environment, public health or safety. In addition, the competitive-bidding process takes time, and states do not typically spend all their money until a project is completed. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced July 1 that $178.5 million has been made available for West Virginia projects. To date, the state has received $74 million in education stimulus funds, including $30.5 million in Title I (reading programs), $41 million for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Vocational Rehabilitation Grants and Independent Living Grants. The West Virginia School Building Authority is attempting to secure $30 million in construction bonds through the stimulus program. Director Mark Manchin said the funds would lead to 19 heating and air-conditioning projects and 15 roof replacements for school buildings in 30 counties. “We would be getting more bang for our buck,” he said of the advantage offered compared to traditional funding. “We get $15 million in proceeds for every $1 million of debt service.” Manchin explained that an additional $48 million will be available through the program later this year and $70 million in 2010. On June 26, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced $13.1 million of AMRA funding to support energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in the Mountain State. West Virginia’s statewide plan prioritizes energy savings, increases in the use of renewable energy and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The allocation represents 50 percent of the state’s Recovery Act SEP funding. Gov. Joe Manchin said the program immediately would help create and retain West Virginia jobs “… while reducing our energy consumption and state government energy costs and allowing us to meet our goal of energy independence in the long run.” Types of activities eligible for the $3.1 billion SEP allocation include energy audits, building retrofits, education and training efforts, transportation programs to increase the use of alternative fuels and hybrid vehicles and new financing mechanisms to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy investments. On June 15, the Environmental Protection Agency announced $15.6 million in AMRA funds for water infrastructure projects in the state. The funds were designated to help state and local government finance water-related projects. “West Virginia now has the green light to fund projects that will protect public health, upgrade infrastructure and invigorate local economies across the state,” said William C. Early, who is acting administrator of EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region. “The additional resources will allow the state to provide subsidies to communities that really need extra help to afford clean drinking water facilities.”
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