October 30, 2009 in City

Wash. stimulus update show more than $1.4B spent

Associated Press

OLYMPIA — More than $1.4 billion in federal stimulus money has been spent in Washington state, and the influx of cash has helped pay for tens of thousands of jobs, officials said Friday.

State and local government workers submitted an update to the federal government earlier this month to track stimulus spending. The federal government reported Friday that about 650,000 jobs have been saved or created under President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan.

Additional state and local numbers were to be released later Friday.

While Washington state reports that 30,000 jobs have been created or retained — a majority of them education-related — officials acknowledge that number doesn’t give the true picture, since the states had to follow federal guidelines for calculating job growth.

“I think it’s really hard to find one method of calculating job creation that fits every program’s circumstances,” said Jill Satran, Gov. Chris Gregoire’s main adviser on stimulus projects.

The assumption of federal stimulus money was used earlier this year to help the state Legislature plug a projected $9 billion deficit.

“It’s really hard to say what would have happened had it not been for the stimulus dollars coming in the state,” Satran said, noting that many teachers were already under contract for the year.

“It’s very clear if we had not been able to use the stimulus dollars to pay for those jobs, the Legislature would have pulled the dollars from somewhere else.”

Senate Republican budget chief Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, pointed to the state’s 9.3 percent unemployment rate as proof that all is not well.

“The question is, has the stimulus affected opportunities for private, full-time employment, and certainly it hasn’t,” he said.

Zarelli said when the stimulus money runs out, the state will have to replace it or make cuts — unless the federal government sends more.

State agencies in Washington have been awarded more than $2 billion, with more than $500 million spent on roads, emergency food assistance, clean water and other projects. Nearly $2 billion more has been awarded for cleanup at south-central Washington’s Hanford nuclear reservation. Local governments, tribes, and others are splitting an estimated additional $2 billion.

The first money to arrive in the state was $200 million in March to match money spent for Medicaid services to low-income people. Unemployed workers have also received a $25-a-week increase in their weekly benefit under the federal stimulus, on top of a state increase.

Satran said that the most visible impact in the state has been the $480 million in stimulus money spent on transportation projects.

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