The Recovery Act Blog

  • Recovery Act Contracting, From the Comfort of Your Living Room

    Did you know that over 90 BILLION DOLLARS in federal prime contracts were awarded to small and disadvantaged businesses last year?  If you didn’t, you’re not alone.  As I’ve traveled around the country over the last few months talking to small business owners about contracting with the federal government, three very important thoughts have run through my head:
    1. More small businesses need to know what contracting opportunities are out there for them and how they can compete for these contracts.
    2. Every government agency needs to know about all of the small businesses owned by women, minorities, and veterans that can provide the quality goods and services they need.
    3. There’s no way I can get to everybody in person…I wish there was a way to provide every business owner with the tools they need from the comfort of their own home.
     Oh right, there is!  President Obama has tasked all of us across the Federal Government with using new technologies to make government more accessible.  And when that approach helps to benefit small businesses, it’s a special priority for the President.
    That’s why this week SBA has launched a new online training program: "How to Win Federal Contracts" available at  It’s the latest in a series of steps we’re taking with our colleagues at the Department of Commerce on an initiative the President asked SBA Administrator Karen Mills (my boss) and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to spearhead.
    It’s called…the "Stakeholder Outreach Initiative" or "SOI".  It’s not the most glamorous name…but the idea behind the initiative is important. 
    As President Obama has said, "It is essential that we provide our Nation’s small businesses with maximum practicable opportunity to participate in Federal Government contracting."
    Over the course of the Recovery Act, roughly $60 Billion in federal contracts will be awarded.  And ensuring small businesses and firms owned by minorities, women, and veterans are involved in the Recovery is a "win-win."
    As Administrator Mills puts it: "Government contracts can play a key role in helping small businesses turn the corner in terms of expansion and job creation.  But make no mistake, the benefits the government receives are equally as impressive – working with small businesses allows the federal government to work with some of the most innovative companies in America, often with direct contact with the CEO."
    In announcing this initiative, President Obama has reiterated his Administration’s commitment to small and disadvantaged businesses.  My team and our colleagues at the Department of Commerce are working hard to deliver on this commitment.  We are working with all federal agencies to host or participate in hundreds of contracting-focused events around the country in the next few months.  We are reaching out to contracting officers at federal agencies and large prime contractors to make sure they know about all the great small and disadvantaged businesses out there who can provide the prime and subcontracting work that they need. We are developing new online training courses that businesses can use to learn how to enter this marketplace. 

    So, stop by your local SBA or MBDA (Minority Business Development Agency) office.  Check out our new online Recovery Act contracting training (  Together, we can make the goals of small and disadvantaged business contracting a reality.

    Joseph Jordan is the Assistant Administrator for Government Contracting and Business Development at the U.S. Small Business Administration

  • The Recovery Act in Action

    So I’m driving along a Pennsylvania highway two weeks ago on my summer vacation, radio blasting, and what do I see but one of those Recovery Act signs, touting a highway project.  Jeez, I thought.  Can’t a guy get away from that stuff for a couple of days!?
    Don’t worry.  I quickly reverted to my economist self and applauded the infrastructure improvement, lecturing my wife and kids on the considerable multiplier effects of such spending (which led to them turning the radio up even louder).
    The fact is, what I saw was a small dose of the medicine from the Recovery Act making its way through one of the nation’s arteries.   And that road project in Pennsylvania is one of out 3,350 highway projects currently underway across the country. 
    But what about the larger patient, i.e., the macro-economy?  What are economic analysts saying about the impact of the Recovery Act thus far?
    As I’ll show you in a moment, they’re saying good things.  The Act is having its intended effect of offsetting some—by no means all—of the damage caused by the deepest downturn since the Great Depression.  And in tandem with our other interventions in financial and housing markets, it’s helped to pull us back from that very dangerous precipice.  
    As Mark Zandi, a highly respected economist (and former advisor to the McCain campaign) put it in a recent analysis, "The fiscal stimulus is providing the fodder for better sales. Lower payroll tax withholding, checks to Social Security recipients, and more financial help to unemployed workers are buoying household incomes. The cash for clunkers program has juiced up vehicle sales, and the housing tax credit has boosted home sales. It is no coincidence that the recession is ending just when the stimulus is providing its maximum economic benefit." (Emphasis mine).
    And other economists agree about the positive effect that the Recovery Act is already having.  Moody’s (where Zandi is Chief Economist), IHS Global Insight, and the Economic Policy Institute all estimate that the Recovery Act has created or saved from 500,000 to 750,000 jobs so far. 
    The economists at Goldman Sachs think the package added 2.2 percentage points to real GDP growth (annualized) in the second quarter of 2009 and will add 3.3 points in the current quarter.  That implies even more jobs saved or created during the current quarter compared to the last one.  It also means that were it not for the boost the Recovery Act is giving to the economy right now, GDP would have contracted at a 3.2% rate in the last quarter instead of a 1% rate.
    Which raises a really, really important point—and don’t even think about turning up the radio.  Suppose you were, oh, I don’t know … politically motivated to argue that the Recovery Act wasn’t working.  You’d probably point to that 1% decline in GDP and say, "How can it be working if the economy is still contracting"  Or maybe you’d point to the 247,000 jobs lost last month.
    Now, the President has stressed consistently that as far as we’re concerned, any degree of economic contraction is too much, and even more importantly, any job losses are too many.  But the independent findings cited above make the critical point that if you’re only noticing that things are still bad without noticing that they’re getting better, you’re looking at the wrong benchmarks.  The question is not, Are we still in hole?  Of course we are; it took years to dig in, and it’s going to take a long time to dig out. 
    The relevant question is, Are we digging out faster thanks to the Recovery Act and our other economic policies?  To that question, these independent analysts, and many others, unequivocally answer, "Yes."
    Just take a look at some "then and now" indicators:
    Then vs. Now

    Real GDP (1)
    Job Losses (2)
    Industrial Production (3)
    Home Prices (4)
    New Home Sales (5)
    Consumer Confidence (6)

    1: Real annual growth rates, 2009q1 and 2009q2
    2: Payroll employment declines from January 2009 and July 2009.
    3: Monthly percent change, Jan 09 and July 09
    4: Case-Schiller, monthly percent change, Jan 09 and June 09
    5: Monthly percent change, Jan 09 and July 09
    6: Conference Board Index, 1985=100, Jan 09 and Aug 09
    GDP was tanking earlier this year; it fell much less quickly in the second quarter and the consensus among private forecasters is for real GDP growth to break into positive territory in the current quarter.
    We’re still losing far too many jobs, but the rate has significantly slowed.  The fact is, you don’t go from losing upwards of 700K jobs on net per month to adding jobs without passing through a period just like this one, where the loss rate slows.
    Home sales and prices are showing stabilizing signs. The sales data, by the way, have gotten a nice boost from our First Time Home Buyers Credit.  And consumer confidence is solidly up, too.
    Let me be very clear about all this: We are not out of hole yet.   It’s important to be realistic about what the Recovery Act has and hasn’t accomplished thus far.  We’ve pulled the economy back from the brink, provided critical relief to families, communities, and states, and are now beginning to lay the foundation for a stronger, more broadly shared expansion. 
    But we are not there yet.   There are more job losses to come.  Key economic indicators may have bottomed out, but they’ve done so at historically low levels.   The economy remains fragile.
    But as we slowly climb out of the hole that greeted us when we got here on January 20th, let’s also be sure to take note of what’s working. 
    OK…NOW you can blast the radio.
    Jared Bernstein is the Executive Director of the Middle Class Task Force and the Vice President's Chief Economist

  • Recovery in Action: Investing in Health Care

    While discussion about needed reforms to the health care system continues across the country, the Recovery Act made an investment today that will help hospitals provide more efficient care. Specifically, Vice President Biden announced the availability of $1.2 billion in grants to help health care providers implement and use electronic health records:
    With electronic health records, we are making health care safer; we’re making it more efficient; we’re making you healthier; and we’re saving money along the way. These are four necessities we need for healthcare in the 21st-century.
    As HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, these investments are a much-needed step towards modernizing the country’s health care system:
    Electronic health records can help reduce medical errors, make health care more efficient and improve the quality of medical care for all Americans. These grants will help ensure more doctors and hospitals have the tools they need to use this critical technology.
    The Recovery Act is also funding projects outside of health care, creating jobs and stimulating the economy by financing public improvement projects across the country: 
    Limestone, Alabama Plans to Use Stimulus Funds To Pay Workers to Perform Plumbing, Construction, and Bridge Repairs, And To Purchase Law Enforcement Technology.  "Limestone County will spend its share by improving a bridge, helping create an events center, improving energy efficiency in county buildings, linking county computers via fiber-optic cable and buying video equipment for use by law-enforcement officials. The money …comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009… Limestone County Commission Chairman David Seibert said he is not sure how much the county will receive until it receives the checks, however, he does have some estimates: $300,000 in road money to improve a county bridge; $250,000 to build a new senior center at Tanner; $100,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission to create a faster and more reliable connection between telephones and computers between county buildings; this improvement also allows judges to arraign jail prisoners via videoconference, which saves time and prevents having to transport prisoners to the courthouse. Within the next year to 18 months, the videoconference equipment will be used for industrial recruitment, said Revenue Enhancement Director Rodney Jackson who worked with Grant Coordinator Sonya Anthony to obtain the stimulus money. $100,000 for heating, cooling and plumbing for the event center to be constructed just west of the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives. That work should be under way within 90 days, Jackson said. $59,400 from a juvenile accountability grant to pay for ankle bracelets with global positioning units that are used to monitor some offenders and for outpatient drug program; $17,884… for video equipment, which county commissioners accepted Monday. Jackson said the county would have been eligible for the Justice Department grant and other grants in previous years but this year it was paid with stimulus funds.  Money for the Rails-to-Trails project… City and county residents did benefit from stimulus money the state received because it was spent to improve U.S. 31."
    Jasper County’s Highway 16 Is Be Resurfaced Thanks To Stimulus Funds.  "Traffic has been disrupted near Monticello and will continue to be for the next 90 days or so while Hwy. 16 is being reseurfaced [sic] in Jasper County from the Butts County line to Forsyth Street at the Square. The work is a $1.4 million Jasper County resurfacing project funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The project includes almost nine miles of resurfacing and shoulder reconstruction." 
    Nebraska Will Use Stimulus Funds to Pay for Repairs, Site Upgrades In State Forests. "Nebraska will be getting $644,000 from the federal stimulus package for deferred maintenance projects at recreation sites in the state. The office of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday announced awards to Nebraska and 35 other states. More than 100 projects were funded at a total of nearly $95 million. The USDA has been authorized to spend $1.15 billion nationally for forest projects on federal, state and private land.  In Nebraska, the money will be used to repair and update sites on the grasslands and in the state's national forest land. The projects will bring the facilities up to current standards and improve accessibility. And new drinking water wells will be installed in some areas."

    Ground Broken On Stimulus Funded Interstate Highway 81 Project To Improve Efficiency; "Will Create Dozens Of Jobs." 
    "Transportation, border security and elected officials gathered Wednesday morning to break ground on a $1.3 million highway project to improve efficiency at the Interstate 81 border crossing station on Wellesley Island.  Funding for the project will come from the $1.1 billion New York state received for highway and bridge projects through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act…The project itself aims to alleviate congestion at the border by expanding from two lanes to four the roadway that funnels traffic into eight manned U.S. Customs and Border Protection check-in stations. Construction will begin immediately and should be complete by the end of the year, said Michael R. Flick, state Department of Transportation Region 7 spokesman…The economic benefits of the project are twofold, Sen. Aubertine said after the ceremony. In addition to the immediate job creation, ‘the smoother we can make the transition going from Canada to the U.S., the more people are going to take advantage of it.’ Ms. McNeely, representing the contractors' union, said the project will create about a dozen jobs. Luck Brothers Inc., Plattsburgh, will do the work."
    Rhinelander Received Stimulus Funds For A New Wastewater Treatment Center And An Addition At The Rhinelander Fire Department.  "Funds will be used to build new wastewater treatment facility and fire department addition.   Governor Jim Doyle was in Rhinelander Wednesday afternoon presenting checks totaling over $33 million to the city…He presented two checks, one for construction of the new wastewater treatment facility and force main and the other for the addition at the Rhinelander Fire Department.  ‘I am happy to be here in Rhinelander to announce major investments in the water system that will create local jobs and benefit local water infrastructure needs," Governor Doyle said. "I’m also pleased to announce that with the help of the Recovery Act, the Rhinelander fire station will be constructing a new addition that will allow them to provide ambulance services to people in need in this community. These important projects made possible through the Recovery Act will help revitalize the local economy and benefit future generations.’   The wastewater check, for $32,912,640, represents $16.4 million in grant money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, with the rest coming in the form of a low interest loan from the state. Doyle said the allocation is one of the largest in the state." 


  • Recovery in Action: CA, KS, MD, MI, and WI

    "Michigan has turned a new page in its industrial history, and the city of Livonia may be a part of a chapter yet to be written on battery technology" – so said The Livonia Observer yesterday. The story was discussing a massive investment of Recovery funds in producing the next generation of batteries here in America, and is just one of several stories that demonstrate the wide impact of the Recovery Act.
    In addition to financing next-generation technology in Michigan, funds provided by the Recovery Act created jobs in California, prevented layoffs in Kansas, and extended unemployment insurance benefits in Wisconsin:
    Roughly 1,200 Teenagers Found Jobs As Long Beach Youth Employment Placement Organizations Saw Resources Increase Four-Fold With Stimulus Infusions; Aspiring Soldiers Experienced Port Security Operations. "Restoring wetlands, installing electrical lines, planting gardens, patrolling the ports. Federal stimulus dollars have put about 1,200 local teens to work in professional fields this summer in and around Long Beach amid one of the toughest job markets in memory. The youth job program run through the city experienced a nearly 400 percent increase in paid employment this summer thanks to some $2.7 million in special federal funding. For 17-year-olds Chris Martinez and Phyreoun Chea, the influx of cash offered an opportunity to earn some money and learn new skills working about 25 hours a week at the Port of Long Beach, where they're receiving a crash course on police work at the port's security division. ‘There's a lot of ex-military people working with us, showing us how security is handled at the port, taking us to meetings, explaining reports and technology and taking us into the field,’ said Chea, a Poly High student who plans to join the Army after graduation in June. Martinez, a senior at Millikan High this fall, said the program has exposed him to a new world. ‘I'd say we're learning a lot,’ Martinez said. ‘The stuff that goes on here is pretty amazing, some of the equipment and how they have to operate to keep the port secure. It's been a good experience.’"
    ARRA Saved Over 1,000 Public Safety Jobs, Grant Will Retain 112 Criminal Justice Workers, Reduce Furloughs for 1,484 Workers. "State and local public safety programs have been hit hard by declining revenues and the national recession; but thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Kansas remains safe and secure as more than 1,000 public safety jobs are protected. ‘Public safety is a top priority for my administration, which is why during the last round of budget cuts our Department of Corrections was spared. However, state and local programs have had to cope with fewer resources and less flexibility,’ said Governor Parkinson. ‘With the justice grants contained in the Recovery Act, more than 1,000 public safety employees won’t have to be furloughed, and more than a hundred won’t be laid off. Not only is this stemming the rising tide of unemployment – it’s keeping the streets of Kansas safe.’ Twenty-seven state and local agencies will receive $11,534,125 in Justice Assistance Grants during the next 24 months. The grant program supports communities in their efforts to hire and retain criminal justice personnel. The funds will create five full time positions and will help retain all or a portion of 112 existing positions. In addition, the grant funds will reduce anticipated furlough days for approximately 1,484 employees. The grant program will help maintain and strengthen resources for law enforcement, prosecution, and corrections programs."
    Senator Mikulski Announced Creation Of Stimulus-Backed Registered Apprenticeship Programs Across Maryland By Which Young People Will Be Employed And Garner Relevant Job Skills. "Senator Barbara A. Mikulski announced five Maryland industry associations and labor-management organizations have been awarded grants to develop Registered Apprenticeship programs. The funds are being awarded by the Department of Labor, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed by President Obama this year. Registered Apprenticeships are based on an ‘earn while you learn’ model that provides a combination of on-the-job training and related classroom instruction in which workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects of a highly skilled occupation. Apprenticeships will help develop a pipeline of workers for new and emerging industries, including those related to green technologies. ‘These grants help us invest in workers and businesses that are ready for the future. These funds will help build Maryland’s innovation infrastructure and power our innovation economy,’ Senator Mikulski said."
    Observer & Eccentric Newspapers: A123 Systems Obtained Battery Technology ARRA Allocation, Marking A Potential "New Chapter" In Michigan Industrial History. "Michigan has turned a new page in its industrial history, and the city of Livonia may be a part of a chapter yet to be written on battery technology. Vice President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that $1.35 billion in federal grants will be awarded to 12 projects in Michigan to support advanced battery and electric vehicle manufacturing and development. Gov. Jennifer Granholm visited A123 Systems in Livonia Thursday to highlight that company's $249.1 million grant from the Department of Energy at the site of what will be the company's new regional headquarters and production facility. The grant will help A123 develop a strategy for constructing lithium ion battery manufacturing facilities in the United States with the first construction location in Livonia. Under the grant's terms, A123 will be required to match the funds over time as they are spent. Grant funding comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's electric drive vehicle battery and component manufacturing initiative. A123 will be located at 39000 Seven Mile, just west of I-275. Company officials would not comment Thursday on specific plans for the building. A123 officials said the manufacturing system is expected to be U.S.-based with research and development, manufacturing of the company's proprietary Nanophosphate cathode powder, electrode coating, cell fabrication, module fabrication and so on through the final assembly of complete battery pack systems for vehicle integration."
    ARRA Will Fund Expansion of Unemployment Benefits For Over 1,200 Workers Displaced By Manufacturing Layoffs. "Gov. Jim Doyle announced Thursday that more than $3.4 million in additional assistance for more than 1,200 dislocated workers formerly employed by 11 Bay Area manufacturers, including Sheboygan area companies Kohler, JL French and Pentair Filtration. The National Emergency Grant includes more than $1.6 million in funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. ‘This is good news for working families hit hard by the national recession,’ Doyle said in a press release. ‘This grant will help these displaced workers improve their skills. With new skills, they will be job-ready in the months ahead as our national economy begins to recover. I am committed to doing everything in my power to assist these workers, their families and communities.’ The more than 1,200 workers were affected by multiple layoffs at JL French, Sheboygan; Genmar Yacht Group (Carver Boats), Pulaski; Koenig and Vits, Manitowoc; Marinette Marine, Marinette; Kohler, Sheboygan; Pentair Filtration, Sheboygan; Manitowoc Company, Manitowoc; Federal Mogul, Manitowoc; Karl Schmidt Unisia, Marinette; KCS International (Cruisers), Oconto and Winsert, Marinette."

  • The President Addresses July Unemployment Figures

    Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.

    download .mp4 (159.8 MB) | read the transcript

    Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released unemployment figures for the month of July. While every job lost is a tragedy, and we still have a ways to go, these numbers are a promising indication that the deep recession is easing. The unemployment rate actually fell in July. Although we lost 247,000 jobs, this is nearly 200,000 fewer jobs lost than in June. The President spoke today about the findings, and explained how the Recovery Act is helping our country rebound:
    Today we're pointed in the right direction. We're losing jobs at less than half the rate we were when I took office. We've pulled the financial system back from the brink, and a rising market is restoring value to those 401(k)s that are the foundation of a secure retirement. We've enabled families to reduce the payments on their mortgages, making their homes more affordable and reducing the number of foreclosures. We helped revive the credit markets and opened up loans for families and small businesses.
    While we've rescued our economy from catastrophe, we've also begun to build a new foundation for growth. That's why we passed an unprecedented Recovery Act less than a month after I took office – and did so without any of the earmarks or pork-barrel spending that's so common in Washington. Now, there's a lot of misinformation about the Recovery Act. So let me repeat what it is and what it is not. The plan is divided into three parts.
    One-third of the money is for tax relief that's going directly to families and small businesses. For Americans struggling to pay rising bills with shrinking wages, we've kept a campaign promise to put a middle class tax cut in the pocket of 95 percent of working families – a tax cut that began showing up in paychecks about four months ago. We also cut taxes for small businesses on the investments they make, and substantially increased loans through the Small Business Administration.
    Another third of the money in the Recovery Act is for emergency relief that is helping folks who have borne the brunt of this recession. For Americans who were laid off, we expanded unemployment benefits – a measure that's already made a difference in the lives of 12 million Americans. We're making health insurance 65 percent cheaper for families that rely on COBRA while they're looking for work. And for states facing historic budget shortfalls, we provided assistance that saved the jobs of tens of thousands of teachers and police officers and other public service workers.
    So these two thirds of the Recovery Act have helped people weather the worst phase of this recession, while saving jobs and stabilizing our economy. The last third is dedicated to the vital investments that are putting people back to work today to create a stronger economy tomorrow. Part of that is the largest new investment of infrastructure in America since Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System back in the 1950s. These are jobs rebuilding America: upgrading roads and bridges, and renovating schools and hospitals.
    President Barack Obama speaks about the economy during a statement in the Rose Garden
    (President Barack Obama speaks about the economy during a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House Friday, August 7, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
    The President has repeatedly said he is committed to not only helping our economy recover in the near-term, but he is committed to building a new foundation for a strong economy for the future:
    And that's why we've put an end to the status quo that got us into this crisis. We cannot turn back to the failed policies of the past, nor can we stand still. Now is the time to build a new foundation for a stronger, more productive economy that creates the jobs of the future.
    And this foundation has to be supported by several pillars to our economy. We need a historic commitment to education, so that America is the most highly-educated, well-trained workforce in the world. We need health insurance reform that brings down costs, provides more security for folks who have insurance, and affordable options for those who don't. And we need to provide incentives that will create new, clean energy sources for our industries. That's where the jobs of the future are, that is the competition that will shape the 21st century, and that's a race that America must win. So we have a lot further to go. As far as I'm concerned, we will not have a true recovery as long as we're losing jobs, and we won't rest until every American that is looking for work can find a job. I have no doubt that we can make these changes. It won't be easy, though. Change is hard – especially in Washington. We have a steep mountain to climb, and we started in a very deep valley. But I have faith in the American people – in their capacity for hard work and innovation, in their commitment to one another, and their courage to face adversity.

  • The Past and Future in Elkhart

    Driving down State Route 19 through the endless corn fields and silos, one might think that Elkhart County in Indiana is a purely agricultural community. But the landscape is dotted with numerous manufacturing plants – places that have made the region the "RV Capital of the World."
    The RV industry has been hit hard by the recession. As a result, the area has experienced a 10% increase in unemployment over the last year, the second highest jump in the country. But behind such figures are the lives of real people. We got to spend some time with people like Herman and Pam, faithful employees of Monaco Coach, in advance of President Obama's announcement at their plant yesterday of billions of dollars in funds for advanced battery and electric drive projects. At its prime, Monaco employed some 1,200 staff; today, they're down to about 100, though the hope is these projects will help bring hundreds of jobs back to town. Herman and Pam told us the story of their embattled community, as they face this more than challenging economic climate together.
    Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.

    download .mp4 (83 MB)