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A Closer Look

Summary: 
Jim Gilio, White House Spokesperson for the Recovery Act, takes a closer look at some of the Recovery Act projects and initiatives that have been getting attention in the media.

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. 

On the not-so-big picture, CNN noted that $63,000 to Ohio has gone to "15 fish farmers to reimburse them for fish food."  This is the kind of thing that is supposed to sound ridiculous of course, however: 

  • It turns out that farmers raising fish as crop have been suffering severe losses to international competitors because feed for their crop has become risen dramatically over the last couple years.  This aid is keeping farmers on the job.  And at $63,000 to help 15 American farmers stay on the job, that’s an awfully good return on our investment.

They also questioned some of the Administration's important investments in research – especially the ones with some of the more unusual descriptions, like "Argentina Plant research" or "Shark Fossil research."  But let's look at the facts here:

  • The National Institute of Health will invest its entire $10.4 billion Recovery Act portfolio by the end of September, fueling a breathtaking array of research advances in medicine and health. 
  • These investments are providing a substantial boost to the national and local economies, with estimates of 50,000 jobs added or saved over the next 2 years (an average of 7 jobs for each NIH grant), and every dollar of NIH support returns $2.25 in goods and services in just one year.    
  • NIH research will help unravel the clues behind many of the most daunting and debilitating diseases, from cancer to heart disease to HIV/AIDS; and every grant application undergoes a rigorous peer review process to choose the scientific proposals with the most potential.

And CNN's been asking questions about funding for the arts.  While some folks may disagree with supporting local arts projects, there's no disagreeing these small grants are creating jobs.  Take a look:

  • Grants to theaters, businesses and non-profit organizations across the country are saving jobs that would have otherwise been lost.  From Missouri to Minnesota to New York to California the diverse jobs being saved includes education coordinators, financial analysts, administrative aides and musicians and teachers.
  • Just this morning CNN ran a piece about a puppet theater, where they cutely called it "Theater of the Absurd."  Here’s what's not absurd... that small $25,000 grant created a job.  That job – to hire others.  That's a pretty good return on our investment. 

CNN also asked about funds for wildfire protection services at Colorado State University.  Here's the scoop on how it will support jobs while preventing forest fires:

  • Using a competitive process, 15 entities were awarded funds, including counties, state and wildlife agencies, and large and small timber industries.  The jobs will employ workers in the wood products industry that has been particularly hard hit in Colorado, and others that have experience in natural resource restoration. 
  • The $10.6 million in grants to CSU are just starting to go to work.  While the funds have been awarded, the seasonal nature of this work means the impact will really take hold come this summer.
  • And this funding is very important to Colorado, which is suffering from a growing hazardous fuels situation that has resulted in millions of acres of dead and dying trees, raising public safety and forest health issues. 

No matter how you frame it, there's no shortcut to solving the economic challenges we currently face.  President Obama understands that Americans are still hurting, and there needs to be a continued commitment to create jobs and build the middle class.  Nearly a year after the Recovery Act was signed into law, economists outside and inside the Administration agree that the Recovery Act is helping meet that commitment - and is already responsible for about 2 million jobs.  These jobs are created by wildfire protection grants, assistance to American farmers, investments in research at America's top universities, innovative energy retrofit programs, funding for a smart energy grid and countless other Recovery Act programs like them.  This is the Recovery Act’s real impact – jobs now, and a commitment to America's future.

Jim Gilio is White House Spokesperson for the Recovery Act