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Recovery in Action: AZ, KS, MD, MA, MS, MO, OH, PA, SC, VA

Before beginning this installment of "Recovery in Action," a slightly different kind of story out of California courtesy of the LA Times:

Chris Schultz breaks down as he worries that his younger brothers will become homeless because his family is four months behind in rent.

Evelyn Aguilar's home was foreclosed, so her family is among a dozen people sharing a one-bedroom apartment.

Victoria Gonzalez may delay college for a year to support her family.

These students, all 17, and 14 of their classmates tell their tales in "Is Anybody Listening?", a nine-minute video made by students at Village Academy High School in Pomona. The production quality is minimal; students speak directly to the camera in front of a blue background, laced with footage of foreclosed homes, abandoned storefronts and others advertising going-out-of-business sales.

But the tales of families dealing with the economic crisis are deeply personal.

This week, in his first major speech on education since taking office, President Obama described the video and spoke directly to the Pomona students.

"I am listening. We are listening. America is listening," the president said. "And we are not going to rest until your parents can keep their jobs, your families can keep their homes, and you can focus on what you should be focusing on: your own education."

Although the subject is dispiriting, the story of how the documentary came to be made at a low-income yet high-achieving public school -- and ended up in a speech by the president -- is extraordinary.

Read the rest, or watch the video.  Now for a glance around the country to see what the recovery act is doing to address stories like those:

Arizona [East Valley Tribune, 3/10/09]:

About $7 million in federal stimulus money will enable Maricopa Workforce Connections to help hundreds more displaced workers upgrade their skills for future employment. The U.S. Department of Labor this week announced state allotment levels for employment and training programs funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The work force investment system will use the $3.5 billion to help Americans get back to work through the national network of one-stop career centers. "It can be used to help folks who have been laid off through education and training programs," said Peggy Abrahamson, Department of Labor spokeswoman. "Primarily the states do this through the one-stop career centers, and there's well over 3,000 around the country."

Kansas [Topeka Capital Journal, 3/12/09]:

Money from the federal stimulus program may reduce the three-month wait time for an appointment at the Shawnee County Health Agency Clinic. Shawnee County commissioners authorized Anne Freeze, health agency director, to speed the process of preparing the application and sending it to Washington.

Maryland [Gazette.net, 3/11/09]:

Stimulus road workers happy to be back on job… When American Infrastructure won the contract to repave a section of New Hampshire Avenue, Bryan White, 47, of Aberdeen, was one of the employees who got the call to return to work.  "It's wonderful," White said of the project, cited as the first in the nation under the $26.6 billion released by President Barack Obama from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to state and local governments to repair and build roadways and bridges. "It's going to create more jobs. I know I'm happy."

Massachusetts [The Boston Globe, 3/12/09]:

The city plans to put its first millions in federal stimulus cash to work as early as next month as part of the redevelopment of the Washington-Beech housing development in Roslindale, Mayor Thomas M. Menino said yesterday. Future phases of the redevelopment, which already have received significant federal funding, will mean a total of 342 new affordable housing units at Washington-Beech and in the surrounding area. Menino said yesterday that he believes the planned April 1 start date of construction on the Washington-Beech project made the city one of the first in the nation to use stimulus dollars aimed at housing. Other stimulus-funded projects slated to begin in 2009 include the installation of more energy-efficient lighting and heating at several housing developments ($5 million); upgrades to bathrooms in several of the housing authority's oldest developments ($10 million); heating and cooling system improvements ($5 million); and security camera installation ($1 million). "Washington-Beech is just the beginning," Menino said.

Mississippi [Biloxi Sun-Herald, 3/12/09]:

Gil Carmichael was as happy as a kid in a candy store that President Obama put $9.3 billion for high-speed rail transportation and upgrading Amtrak into the $785 billion economic recovery package. Carmichael, otherwise a Meridian businessman and former Republican leader, for 20 years since he served as Federal Railroad Administrator has been preaching a vision of a vastly expanded national system of passenger rail transportation he calls "Interstate II." In the Obama recovery package is $8 billion for some 30,000 miles of inter-city high-speed rail transportation and $1.3 billion for Amtrak whose ridership has risen since gas hit $4. The high-speed rail system would significantly benefit all states, even a rural state like Mississippi, as Carmichael will explain in a moment. He praised Obama's inclusion of the rail system in his package: "President Obama clearly understands this necessary new approach to meeting 21st century transportation needs."

Missouri [News-Leader, 3/11/09]:

Missouri will get about $525 million in federal funds for transportation -- a slice of which will be for road projects in the Ozarks. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act aims to create jobs and jump start the economy, Kirk Juranas, Missouri Department of Transportation district engineer for District 8, said Tuesday evening at a public meeting. "This is about jobs," he said. "Jobs, jobs, jobs." Stimulus funds invested in Missouri's transportation infrastructure will directly and indirectly support nearly 22,000 jobs statewide, according to MoDOT… "These projects all have to be delivered fast," Juranas said.

Ohio [Oxford Press, 3/10/09]:

More than 275 jobs could be created or retained locally as a result of stimulus funds that should hit the area this summer. The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council presented its list of projects to potentially receive federal stimulus dollars during a public hearing Monday, March 9. The final list should be approved by the OKI board Thursday, said Brian Cunningham, spokesman for the agency. With an emphasis on "shovel-readiness," the OKI staff also selected projects for their ability at improving commerce or creating jobs, he said.

Pennsylvania [The Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/12/09]:

Under Gov. Rendell's proposal for spending federal education stimulus money, Philadelphia schools would stand to get $361 million in additional funding next school year, and suburban districts would get a total of $88 million in new funding. That money is part of $1.1 billion in stimulus money that Pennsylvania would spend on assorted education programs starting in July, according to a plan released yesterday by the state Department of Education. About a third of that money would go directly to a handful of programs targeted to low-income students and special education. Rendell wants to designate the rest of the money - totaling $728 million - to two broad programs. One would supplement the state's regular education funding, which otherwise could face cuts reflecting the poor state of economy. The other would represent new money that districts could use on a variety of programs, including classroom instruction, school renovations, and technology upgrades. It could also be used to make up for any lost school-tax revenue.

Virginia [Virginia Pilot, 3/12/09]:

The city will receive about $20 million from the federal stimulus package, and that's in addition to tens of millions of dollars the school system and Hampton Roads Transit will receive. The City Council received a breakdown Tuesday of funds the city has confirmed it will get, including $9.2 million to rehabilitate public housing and $6 million to improve roads. City Manager Regina V.K. Williams said the city has applied for added funds, including $16 million to improve sewer systems in some of the city's oldest neighborhoods…. "You put it all together, and construction firms will be hiring new people and paying overtime to some of their existing employees," she said.