The Recovery Act Blog

  • A Closer Look

    This week, CNN has been taking a good, hard look at the Recovery Act and examining some of the projects being funded across the country to create jobs and drive economic growth.  As they do this, they’re asking some questions about how Recovery dollars are being spent.  We wanted to provide the full set of facts about some of the projects featured.  For example:

    On the big picture, one report claims that the Recovery Act's weatherization program, part of an unprecedented investment in energy retrofits, is moving too slowly.  A closer examination shows something different:

    • After starting a little slower than we'd hoped, the program has picked up steam and we are now on a path to reach our target of weatherizing 20,000-30,000 homes a month.
    • Grantees have now spent over $445 million in the weatherization program, and the pace of spending continues to accelerate.  The states and local agencies spent the summer gearing up - training and hiring new workers and putting in place the accountability and transparency mechanisms that are central to the Recovery Act.  In the fall, the local agencies began to weatherize homes in earnest and are continuing to increase the pace of weatherization every month.
    • And states are already able to put to work the first 50 percent of their Recovery funds.  As part of the oversight and management process under the weatherization program, states are required to weatherize 30 percent of their estimated units and demonstrate they are meeting the accountability, transparency and job creation goals of the Recovery Act before they can access the remaining 50 percent of obligated funds. 

  • The Winds of Recovery are Blowing Across the Nation

    The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released their 4th Quarter 2009 industry assessment, in which they credited the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) with almost solely turning a potential decline into historic growth in the U.S. wind industry.  According to their press release:

    Early last year, before [ARRA], the industry anticipated that in 2009 wind power development might drop by as much as 50% from 2008 levels, with equivalent job losses.  The clear commitment by the President to create clean energy jobs and the swift implementation of ARRA incentives by the Administration in mid-summer reversed the situation. Recovery Act incentives spurred the growth of construction, operations and maintenance, and management jobs, helping the industry to save and create jobs in those sectors and shine as a bright spot in the economy.

    ARRA included more than $80 billion in clean energy investments.  Through these investments, American companies and American workers are involved in unprecedented growth in the generation of renewable energy, expanding manufacturing capacity for clean energy, advancing vehicle and fuel technologies, and building a bigger, better, smarter electric grid... all while saving and creating jobs here at home.  Some of the direct benefits this report identifies include:

    • The nation's fleet of wind plants grew by 39% last year alone. 
    • America's wind power fleet will avoid an estimated 62 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, equivalent to taking 10.5 million cars off the road.

    This report is good news, and it is consistent with the clean energy jobs numbers recently released by the President's Council of Economic Advisors.  Across the country, communities are beginning to establish the clean energy industries that will power the 21st century global economy.  Just last week, President Obama got to see firsthand how clean energy investments are putting people to work during his visit to the Wind Turbine Manufacturing and Fab Lab facilities at Lorain County Community College (LCCC) in Elyria, Ohio.  LCCC is offering the first associate's degree credit program in Ohio in the burgeoning field of wind turbine power generation.  This program will train students to become installation and maintenance professionals in the wind energy sector.  The new associate's degree program will cover an overview of alternative energy sources, with specialized training in electronics, electronic controls, mechanical systems and more. 

    During the visit, the President spoke on the undertapped potential for clean energy jobs:

    That's why I'm calling on Congress to pass a jobs bill to put more Americans to work building off our Recovery Act; put more Americans back to work rebuilding roads and railways; provide tax breaks to small businesses for hiring people; offer families incentives to make their homes more energy-efficient, saving them money while creating jobs.

    That's why we enacted initiatives that are beginning to give rise to a clean energy economy.  That's part of what's going on in this community college.  If we hadn't done anything with the Recovery Act, talk to the people who are building wind turbines and solar panels.  They would have told you their industry was about to collapse because credit had completely frozen.  And now you're seeing all across Ohio some of the -- this state has received more funds than just about anybody in order to build on that clean energy economy -- new cutting-edge wind turbines and batteries that are going to be going into energy-efficient cars.

    Almost $25 million of our investment went to a plant right here in Elyria that's helping produce the car batteries of the future.  That's what we're going to keep on doing for the rest of 2010 and 2011 and 2012, until we've got this country working again. 

    The AWEA assessment shows the solid progress made over the last year, but there is still more to be done to both ensure a long-term market signal  for renewables and to ensure the U.S. is the global leader in clean energy technology.  To achieve this goal, Congress must pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation to make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy and provide business with the certainty and predictability they need. The House of Representatives has already passed such legislation and the Senate is working to do the same. The President will continue to make passage of legislation a top priority given its benefits for our economy, our security and the environment.

    Heather Zichal is Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change

  • Faces of Recovery

    As we’ve been following CNN’s Stimulus Project coverage this week, we’ve noticed that, like us, they’re meeting Americans across the country who are finding work, growing their businesses, buying their first homes and receiving needed financial assistance thanks to the Recovery Act.  Here is just a sampling of some of the people who have told CNN the Recovery Act is making a difference for their families and their communities.

    Michael Johnson of Orlando, FL said the Recovery Act's Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program is “truly is an impactful program.” “This truly is an impactful program. That my kids could wake up in their own rooms on Christmas morning and walk out to the Christmas tree. I mean we never thought we’d have a place to put a Christmas tree.” [CNN, 1/25/10]

    Bobby Jones, a general foreman from Aiken, SC said the Recovery Act is "keeping [him] employed.” “I'm working on the DUO project (depleted uranium oxide), I was in D&D (deactivation and decommissioning) and I moved over here [to DOE’s Savannah River Site] in October. They needed someone to run the night shift so I came over. It's still stimulus funded and it's keeping me employed.” [, 1/25/10]

    Wellington Hall a traffic engineer from Providence, RI said “none of this would be possible without the stimulus and I’m very grateful for that.” “I just got assigned as a project manager of a highway safety improvement project -- the goal is to identify intersections with high crash rates and work with consultants to mitigate accidents and make them safer. It feels good to know that these are some of the roads I drive on and that my coworkers and friends drive on. It feels good to know I'm making an impact. Right now I'm working on other things too, like using renewable energy to save on electrical costs. There are always things to keep me busy. This job has definitely helped me. I bought a house in august with my fiancé, got engaged in November and graduated last week. None of this would be possible without the stimulus and I'm very grateful for that. We're planning on getting married sometime in 2011.” [, 1/25/10]

    Officer Patrick Dunn of Englewood, CO said that “If it wasn’t for the stimulus I probably wouldn’t have been hired.” “If it wasn’t for the stimulus, I probably wouldn’t have been hired. We had one income. My wife has been supporting the whole income. We have three kids. I have a 6, 5 1/2-year-old daughter and 20-month-old twins. There was a lot of pressure put on her.” [CNN, 1/25/10]

    Officer Eddie Blackwell of Englewood, CO says the Recovery Act “gave [him] a golden opportunity to become a police officer.” “The stimulus package opened the opportunity, gave me a golden opportunity to become a police officer. I jumped on it.” [CNN, 1/25/10]

    Chief Tom Vandermee of Englewood, CO believes the Recovery Act “has been extremely rewarding for [his] community.” “Our slice of this stimulus package, I can tell you, has been extremely rewarding for this community.” [CNN, 1/25/10]

    Troy Cooper, an electrician from Coatesville, PA says the Recovery Act is “definitely going to help” him re-hire workers he was forced to lay off last year. “What we're doing has some of the incentive money built into it, so I say, yeah it's definitely going to help. Hopefully within the next month or so I'll be able to start bringing people back on from layoff.” [CNN, 1/25/10]

    Richard Bennett an Iraq War veteran and the President Fidelias Design and Construction from Coatesville, PA says the opportunity he now has because of the Recovery Act “feels amazing, almost surreal.” “Now I'm president of a multimillion dollar construction company. It feels amazing, almost surreal.” [CNN, 1/25/10]

    Patricia Dunn, a nurse practitioner from Mount Kisco, NY says the Recovery Act “made it possible for [her] to have this job.” “I had wanted to work for this organization six months prior to being offered my current position. They had a part-time opening but I needed full-time. When the [stimulus] funding came through, they offered me a position. Without a doubt, the funding made it possible for me to have this job. We've also, through stimulus, been able to hire more employees and that's great. The organization has hired several new physicians who started a few months ago.” [, 1/25/10]

    Valatisha Jacinto, a school teacher from Waco, TX, “never thought anything that good would ever happen to her” before she was able to buy a house with an $8,000 Recovery Act tax credit through the first-time homebuyers program. "Thanks to the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers, in March, Valatisha bought a three-bedroom, two-bath home for $105,000. She took out a 4.9% FHA-insured 30-year loan, putting her monthly expenses, including property taxes and insurance, at just $830. She says, 'I never thought anything that good would happen to me.'" [, 1/25/10]

    Rob Logan from Ypsilanti, MI “wouldn’t have been able to afford [his] house” without the Recovery Act.

    Rob bought his Ypsilanti, Mich., house for $71,000 in October because of the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers. "I wouldn't have been able to afford my house without it. It was one of the main reasons I started looking." [, 1/25/10]

    Chris Saliture from St. Paul, MN says the Recovery Act is “what got [him] started” looking for a house. "For Chris, the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers credit was vital. 'That's what got me started. I knew the incentive program was going on. I may still have looked, but this had an impact on what I could afford." [, 1/25/10]

    Liz Oxhorn is Recovery Act Communications Director

  • CNN Sets the Record Straight

    Last month, two Senators – who, by the way, opposed the Recovery Act from the beginning – released a report claiming that Recovery Act funds have largely been wasted or mismanaged and the program is not working.  Curiously, their report came just as we learned the economy had begun to grow again for the first time in more than a year – something many economists say is largely due to the Recovery Act – and right after the Congressional Budget Office, Congress’s nonpartisan research arm embraced by Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, said that the Recovery Act was already responsible for well over 1 million jobs.  At the time, we debunked many of the claims in the report. 

    But CNN recently decided to find out for themselves – and the verdict couldn’t be more clear:

    “But we took a closer look at the Senators’ top ten examples of so-called waste, we found nine of the ten did not tell the whole story and in some cases were inaccurate.”  [CNN, 1/25/10]

    You may recall the Senators’ claim at the time that: “The tranquil hamlet of Bainbridge Island, Washington, received $190,000 to upgrade a patrol boat for which it has little need—while it considers downsizing its police force.” [McCain/Coburn Stimulus Checkup, 12/8/10] 

    • Not true, Lt. Bob Day of the Bainbridge Island Police Department told CNN: 
      • “There's some technology we'll be getting with this grant that is going to be able to help us better protect the port and to share information with port security partners.”  [Lt. Bob Day, CNN, 1/25/10]
    • In fact, Lt. Day questions whether the two Senators understand security priorities:
      • “Unless Senators Coburn and McCain think that homeland defense and port security is something that really isn't important and it isn't a priority, I would take exception with their estimate on that.”  [Lt. Bob Day, CNN, 1/25/10]
    • And notes the purchase supports jobs:
      • “The vendors we’re working with, it's keeping their people employed.”  [Lt. Bob Day, CNN, 1/25/10]
    • CNN’s verdict?
      • “[T]hey called the upgrade to this boat unnecessary in a small town they call a tranquil hamlet. But more than 6 million passengers travel each year on the ferry between Bainbridge island and Seattle.  City officials say the ferry system is a high risk security target and the stimulus money a valid investment. The Department of Homeland Security agrees.” [CNN, 1/25/10]

    And then there was the Senators’ claim that: An “almost empty mall” was awarded an energy grant to install a geothermal heating and cooling system. [McCain/Coburn Stimulus Checkup, 12/8/10]

    • Not true, developer Dave Thrash told CNN - the mall already has three department stores committed to the new project:
      • “We're not going to heat an empty mall. We're developing the property into a modern open-air center, and the goal is to deploy this technology into the commercial space.”  [Dave Thrash, CNN, 1/25/10]
    • In fact, the project will create more than 200 jobs and cut costs the Department of Energy’s Matt Rogers notes:
      • “Jobs, cost and innovation. What made us excited were the ability to create more than 200 jobs for just the construction of this project…. And in the particular technology that they are using here is an innovative approach to ground source heat pumps that actually makes the capital cost lower.”  [Matt Rogers, CNN, 1/25/10]

    If this were the first time the Senators had released a report on the Recovery Act that had more holes than a block of Swiss cheese, it might be easier to consider this a simple case of confusion.  But we aren’t talking about a great track record with accuracy here.  The last time the Senators went through this exercise, more than half of the items in that report turned out to be false or misleading claims as well – while other projects attacked included medical research to help hearing impaired children, and a state of the art project to create jobs in advanced technology.

    While this may have been an entertaining exercise for the two Senators, the underlying issues here could not be more serious.  Last year, we faced the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression – and while others, including the two Senators, would have preferred to do nothing, we chose to act through the Recovery Act and other economic rescue efforts.  Nearly a year later, the evidence is now undeniable that the Recovery Act is working to create jobs and drive economic growth across the country.  In fact,  the CBO now says the Recovery Act is responsible for as many as 2.4 million jobs through projects like these:

    • In Oklahoma, the Recovery Act is helping build new flood-control dams and repair old, unsafe, and obsolete dams across the state – a move that not only creates jobs, but saves taxpayer dollars usually spent cleaning up floods. 
    • In Arizona, a local company is putting $99 million in Recovery funds, which were matched by an equal amount of private capital, to launch the largest deployment of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in U.S. history – an effort the company says will create an additional 750 position across multiple states. 

    The question is not whether the Recovery Act is money well-spent.  Everyone from independent economists and the CBO to Republican and Democratic governors and workers across the country on the job at Recovery projects says that it is.  The question is whether critics like the two Senators will finally admit that they were wrong to oppose this vital job-creating legislation - and that it’s working in Arizona, Oklahoma and across the country.

    Liz Oxhorn is Recovery Act Communications Director

  • AP Misses the Transportation Stimulus Jobs Forest for the Trees

    Today, the Associated Press published an article skeptical of transportation stimulus spending's effect on employment. Now, I'm all for a vigilant press to help keep our government effective. But this story is missing the point. This Administration's transportation stimulus spending is putting people to work.

    According to AP's analysis, "a surge in spending on roads and bridges has only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry."

    That's what my math teachers used to call comparing "apples and oranges." Referring to the "construction industry" when transportation stimulus spending is only designed to help the transportation construction industry.

    You see, the highway and road construction industry totals about 258,000 jobs out of an overall national work force of 132 million jobs. If you're keeping score at home, that means only two-tenths of one percent of the American employment is in highway and road work.

    And, not only is transportation construction less than a percent of all employment, it's also only a tiny sliver of the total construction picture.

    The same can be said of transportation's role in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Transportation stimulus dollars make up only 7% of that nearly $800 billion package.

    But, when we drill down to the transportation construction industry, the most appropriate basis for analysis, we find Recovery Act spending making a real difference in people's lives.

    Just last week, the Census Bureau reported that highway and street construction spending in November was 5.7% higher than it was in November a year ago, and other public transportation construction spending was up 18.8% from a year ago.  By contrast, overall construction spending was down 13% from a year ago, to the lowest level in six years.

    And even that rise in public spending conceals the fact that states, counties, and municipalities have all cut their transportation construction budgets drastically.

    In absolute terms, overall public construction rose by $8.3 billion in November 2009 from November a year ago.  All of that (more than all of that) was accounted for by highways, streets, and other public transportation construction projects, which rose by $9.2 billion.

    So, on top of tens of thousands of laid-off workers back on the job, Federal stimulus spending is reducing that drastic shortfall in other public transportation spending, making it possible for tens of thousands of workers to retain their jobs and never even hit the unemployment rolls.

    Indeed, DOT-administered stimulus spending is the only thing propping up the transportation construction industry.

    I dont' know about the AP, but where I come from, we call that helping.

    Ray LaHood is Secretary of Transportation

  • Recovery in Action: From Coast to Coast

    President Obama has made job creation a top priority in the nation's continuing economic recovery, hosting a jobs forum at the White House and calling for similar meetings across the country to make sure every good idea is explored. The Recovery Act continues to be instrumental in providing funds to states and municipalities to keep Americans working and, at the same time, make needed improvements to the nation's infrastructure and prepare workers for the economy of tomorrow. Reports of these successes are coming in from media across the country:

    Ohio, Cleveland,com, 12/29/09:

    Ohio Gets Billions From ARRA, Enabling It To Balance Its Budget And Save The Jobs Of Many State Employees, As Well As Invest In Energy And Environment Projects. "When the federal stimulus program was announced last year, Ohio figured it would get around $8.2 billion. But the state already has surpassed that by $1 billion and could get another billion before the program ends... Experts say the money that helped Ohio balance its budget saved the jobs of many state employees."

    California, ABC 7, 12/31/09:

    Stimulus Funding Goes To Bay Area Jobs Program That Is 'Almost Too Good To Be True.' "The federal stimulus bill set aside $5 billion to subsidize jobs for needy families. California gets $1.8 billion of that to dole out to counties which can use the money to get unemployed people into jobs. San Francisco was one of the first to get the program off and running."

    California, Contra Costa Times, 1/3/10:

    More Than $1 Billion From ARRA Is “Flowing Freely” Into The Bay Area, Flooding University Research Coffers, Boosting Transportation Projects, Improving Infrastructure, And More. "More than $1 billion from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is flowing freely into the Bay Area, flooding university research coffers and boosting transportation projects such as the long-awaited Caldecott Tunnel expansion and the BART-Oakland Airport people mover, funding high-tech baggage screening equipment at San Francisco International Airport and improvements to Caltrain in San Mateo County.”

    Missouri, St. Louis Business Journal, 12/31/09:

    Missouri Gets $1.2 Million Stimulus Grant For Green Jobs. "Missouri has won a $1.2 million grant funded by the federal stimulus package for research on ‘green’ occupations and the skills needed for these jobs... Nearly 5 percent of Missouri’s total employment, or more than 130,000 positions, are now tied to the green economy, according to a report released this month."

    Louisiana, Newsstar, 1/4/10:

    Stimulus Funds Go To 14 Road Improvement Projects In Ouachita Parish. "Fourteen road improvement projects in Ouachita Parish being funded with federal stimulus monies have been scheduled to go out for bids in February. The state Department of Transportation and Economic Development will let projects in February for Monroe, West Monroe and in the parish as part of the state's expenditure of federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds...West Monroe Mayor Dave Norris expects his city's six projects to be under construction in the spring."