Economy Alarm: “Stimulus” Not Aimed At Low Unemployment Areas
Counties suffering the most from job losses stand to receive the least help from President Barack Obama’s plan to spend billions of stimulus dollars on roads and bridges, an Associated Press analysis has found
Although the intent of the money is to put people back to work, AP’s review of more than 5,500 planned transportation projects nationwide reveals that states are planning to spend the stimulus in communities where jobless rates are already lower.
One result among many: Elk County, Pa., isn’t receiving any road money despite its 13.8 percent unemployment rate. Yet the military and college community of Riley County, Kan., with its 3.4 percent unemployment, will benefit from about $56 million to build a highway, improve an intersection and restore a historic farmhouse.
Altogether, the government is set to spend 50 percent more per person in areas with the lowest unemployment than it will in communities with the highest.
The AP reviewed $18.9 billion in projects, the most complete picture available of where states plan to spend the first wave of highway money. The projects account for about half of the $38 billion set aside for states and local governments to spend on roads, bridges and infrastructure in the stimulus plan.
The very promise that Obama made, to spend money quickly and create jobs, is locking out many struggling communities needing those jobs.
The money goes to projects ready to start. But many struggling communities don’t have projects waiting on a shelf. They couldn’t afford the millions of dollars for preparation and plans that often is required.
“It’s not fair,” said Martin Schuller, the borough manager in the Elk County seat of Ridgway, who commiserates about the inequity in highway aid with colleagues in nearby towns. “It’s a joke because we’re not going to get it, because we don’t have any projects ready to go.”
The early trend seen in the AP analysis runs counter to expectations raised by Obama, that road and infrastructure money from the historic $787 billion stimulus plan would create jobs in areas most devastated by layoffs and plant closings. Transportation money, he said, would mean paychecks for “folks looking for work” and “folks who want to work.” (Brett J. Blackledge, “Stimulus Watch: Early Road Aid Leaves Out Neediest, Associated Press, May 11, 2009)
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