January 27, 2009

And so it goes: $1 billion, $2 billion, $3.9 billion...

For a while Tuesday, I tried to keep track of all the additions to the latest economic recovery package coming hot and heavy from Sen. Herb Kohl's office.

Press release after press release arrived in my inbox, each touting billions that Herb "worked to include" through one committee or another in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on its version of the measure Wednesday. Kohl's additions will first be considered by the Senate in its own deliberations.

Here are his headlines; below that are most of the specifics he provided. You be the judge whether these are economic stimulus measures or something else.

Kohl works to include $3.95 billion for law enforcement in economic stimulus bill, read one headline. That came from the Appropriations Committee, of which Kohl is a member. "Few government programs can claim such a direct connection to job creation as the COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) Hiring Program. This funding will put more people in this country to work. In addition to reducing crime, this investment can serve as a direct injection of money into the American economy,” Kohl said.

Kohl announces boosts for nutrition, rural area resources in stimulus bill, said another headline, from the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, of which he is chairman. "“With people losing their jobs, it is essential substantial resources remain in place for struggling families throughout the country to put food on the table,” Kohl said. “It is also important we promote job creation and economic stability in our rural communities, among the areas hardest hit by the slowdown. With this legislation, we can do that and help Americans during these tough economic times."

Kohl works to include $1 billion for job training in economic stimulus bill, read another. This one is also from Appropriations: "In these difficult economic times we need to focus on basic needs rapid response, and putting people back to work is a fundamental component to get the economy moving,” Kohl said. “With new and updated occupational skills, people are more likely to find good paying jobs to support their families. Job training initiatives also help America’s employers by improving their business’s efficiency and effectiveness so they can successfully compete in the global economy.”

Kohl expands stimulus to support health IT funding for long-term care facilities, says another, this one from the Senate Special Committee on Aging, of which he is chairman. "Health IT has been shown to save lives and save money,” said Kohl. “Long-term care facilities are an important part of our health care system. It was crucial that they be included in the national push to adopt health IT.”

The $825 billion stimulus bill -- if that amount is even close to its present level -- is supposed to create or sustain 4 million jobs, primarily by investing in infrastructure, strengthening federal programs and tax credits for vulnerable families, and providing aid to state and local governments. In addition, about one-third of its price tag is for a broad range of tax cuts. Here are some of the specific programs Kohl is touting:

For law enforcement:
  • $1 billion for the COPS Universal Hiring program
  • $1.5 billion for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program
  • $440 million for Byrne competitive grant program
  • $300 million for VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) programs
For nutrition initiatives:
  • $16.562 billion for a temporary increase in Food Stamps. Most economists agree that a food stamp increase, because of the way food stamps are distributed and spent, is one of the quickest ways for government to put resources into economic circulation;
  • $500 million for WIC;
  • $198 million to help school districts pay for school breakfast and lunch equipment; and
  • $150 million to help food banks meet unprecedented demand (67,000 local food pantries utilize TEFAP to help 25 million households nationwide).
For agriculture and rural communities:
  • $1.375 billion to support loans and grants of $3.8 billion for rural water and waste disposal;
  • $395 million for watershed rehabilitation and flood prevention operation to provide for construction of flood prevention and water supply facilities;
  • $17.530 million to support $400 million in direct and guaranteed farm ownership loans;
  • $24.9 million to support $250 million in direct and guaranteed farm operating loans;
  • $200 million to support $11.5 billion in single-family housing loans that will assist about 105,000 low income rural households with home ownership or foreclosure avoidance;
  • $127 million to support $1.5 billion in loans and grants for Rural Community Facilities including hospitals, health clinics and public buildings;
  • $150 million to support $3 billion in loans and grants to support rural business expansion;
  • $200 million for biorefinery funds to assist in development of advanced biofuels;
  • $50 million for Rural Energy for America Program to promote energy efficiency on farms and rural small businesses; and
  • $200 million to support $993 million in loans and grants for distance learning, telemedicine and the broadband program.
To support the core missions of USDA:
  • $300 million for replacement, modernization and upgrades of laboratories and other USDA buildings;
  • $100 million for competitive grants under the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI); and
  • $4 million for Farm Bill administration to ensure that farm bill programs are properly carried out.

1 comment:

  1. The intentions are idealistic to say the least. But it's one thing to say in which area the money will go (WIC, COPS, etc.) - how the money will be spent exactly in a specific area is another. It's still difficult to judge whether the plan will be effective or not.

    It's always easier to screw up than to make things right - especially when handing out staggering sums of money. But as dire as the economic situation is now, hopefully, government gets it right most of the time.