Maine sparked by stimulus package
After the Senate passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, over $722 million of the proposed $787 billion national economic stimulus bill has been invested directly into the state of Maine alone. Of those funds, $27 million has been used for projects in Kennebec County, ranging from road repairs to education grants to several area colleges.
As promoted by its website, "the Recovery Act has three immediate goals: to create new jobs as well as save existing ones, to spur economic activity and invest in long-term economic growth and to foster unprecedented levels of accountability and transparency in governmental spending."
The Recovery Act is to achieve these goals by "providing $288 billion in tax cuts and benefits for millions of working families and businesses, increasing federal funds for education and health care as well as entitlement programs by $224 billion and making $275 billion available for federal contracts, grants and loans."
Maine, which only represents 0.43 percent of the population of the United States, is currently scheduled to receive 0.59 percent of the total funding provided by the national stimulus package. So far, the funds that have been directed to the state of Maine have been used primarily by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Education (DOE). Highway maintenance on I-95, bridge reconstruction and resurfacing in local communities and on I-95 have all been projects generated by the stimulus package.
"We are also making sure that agencies work closely together on all of the proposals in the legislation," Ryan Low, commissioner of the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services, said in a press release. "For example, making sure that DOT doesn't pave a road on Monday and the [Department of Environmental Protection] tears it up on a Friday for a new sewer project."
Of the funds received by Kennebec County, much of the money has been used to aid several local colleges in an attempt to lessen the financial strain on the schools and the students.
The Pell Grant, a federal grant program, provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students to promote access to post-secondary education.
The stimulus package granted nearly an additional $700,000 in Pell Grant funding to Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC), $330,000 to Thomas College and $2,475,000 to the entire University of Maine system to allow these institutions to provide students with proper financial aid during this difficult economic time.
Additional funds have been provided to the schools to increase their work-study award grants. KVCC received an additional $12,000, Thomas $26,000 and the University of Maine system $51,000 for this purpose.
This year, the College received an additional $167,000 in Pell Grant awards and nearly $50,000 for increased work-study funds.
Additional projects in Kennebec County include a $914,000 grant to the Maine Department of Human Services for supplemental nutrition assistance, a $2 million grant to the Maine Department of Labor for unemployment insurance funds and a $103,000 grant to the Maine Department of Agriculture for an Emergency Foods Assistance program.
Locally, the Waterville Housing Authority received a $445,000 grant for the Public Housing Capital Fund and the DOE granted Waterville over $1 million in Title I grants to local educational agencies.
In addition to the promotion of a postsecondary education, "the main focus of the stimulus plan has been to get funds into our communities--to make the critical investments that will create jobs--as soon as possible, in an appropriate manner that ensures maximum accountability and transparency, both inside and outside of state government," Low said.
To date, 1,613 jobs have been created and/or saved in the state of Maine since the enactment of the stimulus package. In total, the United States has seen the creation of 640,329 jobs as a result of the stimulus package.
"The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is putting thousands of Mainers to work, improving vital state infrastructure and helping families through the toughest economic period since the Great Depression," Governor John Baldacci said in a press release.
Maine's progress with its award money shows that many of the state's projects are underway at the moment. Forty-five of the projects have been completed and 50 are more than halfway finished, while almost half of the total projects, 224, are currently less than halfway finished. 143 projects are yet to be started.
The government is also promoting citizen involvement in the stimulus package consumption by providing the details of the package on its website.
The government currently requires recipients of recovery funds to "report quarterly on the amount of monies spent, the status of the project, the number of jobs created and/or saved and other details, all of which are posted on www.recovery.gov so that the public can track where the total $787 billion recovery funds are going and how they are being spent."
Maine plans to comply completely with these standards. "Consistent with the language in the federal bill, we will be looking for an unprecedented level of accountability, including where funds are allocated and for what purpose, a public announcement of all contract awards and a listing of all program managers," Low said.
"To date, our emphasis has been on process. To promote the transparency within government, we will be taking several steps to ensure appropriate levels of accountability and oversight. The governor believes it is very important that these funds are tracked from start to finish, to allow for the maximum level of transparency."
"In just its first six months, the Recovery Act has created thousands of jobs, saved many more and paid direct benefits to Maine families that have helped them through the most challenging economy of our time," Baldacci said.
"People are working today because of the Recovery Act and hundreds of thousands more have received tax breaks, received extended unemployment insurance and had their health insurance protected."