The news on the economic front is still grim, but already the recovery package is saving and creating those jobs in towns across the country, stemming losses and spurring growth in ways that affect real families and communities. Here are just a few stories plucked from the local news over the past few days.
Obama's Stimulus Keeps the Solar Power Dream Alive for Start-ups… When the $787 billion stimulus bill was signed in February, there were more than a few sighs of relief at BrightSource. The bill showered renewable energy with new funds, including $60 billion in loan guarantees for companies building wind and solar plants. BrightSource was among a small group of start-ups that had already been selected for Department of Energy loans, but the stimulus vastly increased the funds available. It also loosened rules governing tax credits, greatly expanding the pool of potential investors. After months of wondering where to turn for funding, BrightSource had been given a reprieve. "Now, all of a sudden," says Jenkins-Stark, "I have a very different worry proposition for half the capital of our project."
Governor Jim Douglas hauled out the barricade to officially close the Bridge Street bridge to traffic. Such construction doesn't usually draw this much attention, but it's the first project in the state to put federal stimulus dollars to work… Eleven projects have finished or nearly finished the bidding process. Among them are plans for improving or replacing bridges in Barre, Brownington, and East Montpelier, and paving roads in Colchester, Rockingham and Royalton. Together, the 11 projects use $33.6 million in federal stimulus funding. Another 20 projects are already scheduled to go out to bid.
Virginia Lequeux, lives in Peabody Apartments: "My whole apartment, I mean I’ve been blessed…blessed." Just recently she was upgraded to a newly renovated floor. New security cameras, laundry facility and even a dishwasher in her apartment. Up until about a year ago, that was the plan for the whole building…but then the money ran out. Richard Arfman, Augusta Housing Authority, Director of Planning and Development: "It was first built back in 1967 and there are 250 units in there and it’s designated for seniors. So it was built in ‘67, some of the insides needed some work done, especially the plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems." But things are looking up again for this public housing high rise. $6.1 million was given to Augusta’s Housing Authority…just enough to finish renovations to the remaining 6 floors.
Tennessee will put nearly 12,000 young adults to work while providing free labor to businesses as part of the economic stimulus package. Unemployment numbers across the nation. According to the numbers, teens and young adults are among the hardest hit… Help is coming soon. The Tennessee Department of Labor has received $25 million to provide summer jobs for thousands of youth across the state. "Basically, employers fill out the time sheets, the department pays the paycheck and kids get the employment. Everybody wins in this situation," says Jeff Hentchel with the Department of Labor. "Whether its sweeping, emptying trash cans, painting tables."
Maryland is receiving more than $1 billion in federal stimulus money earmarked for education, and Gov. Martin O'Malley said yesterday he would use some of it to increase funding for community colleges and maintain the freeze on undergraduate tuition at state universities. The governor's initial budget for next year did not include an increase for community colleges, which are seeing thousands more students enroll to gain new skills to help them find jobs in the recession. But with the stimulus money, O'Malley is increasing state aid by 5 percent over the next two years.
Jackson Police Chief Matt Heins said Monday in a phone interview that federal stimulus grants announced last week will help him save four positions in his department. The money, released by the White House, was part of the Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) program administered by the Justice Department. Heins said he had planned on eliminating four posts — one that was currently empty and three that were currently filled. But with the money from JAG, the police chief said he will be able to protect those positions from elimination.
A series of federal stimulus projects in Minnesota are about to graduate from concept to signed contract. On Friday, the Minnesota Department of Transportation plans to award contracts for a series of highway projects to be paid for by the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which includes $502 million for Minnesota highways and bridges and $92 million for transit.