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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Stimulus translates to contracts, grants

Richard Roesler; (360) 664-2598

New water lines in Republic. A large sewage project in Airway Heights. Millions for schools, for crime-victim advocates, and to expand broadband access into rural areas. Hundreds of miles of new or overhauled paths, bridges and roads.

And that’s just the start.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed by President Barack Obama in February, is a massive federal effort to resuscitate the nation’s economy and to create – or save – millions of jobs.

In Washington, it means billions of federal dollars, most of which are starting to trickle out in contracts. Of the $4.1 billion the state is tracking, less than 10 percent has been spent so far.

“In many cases, we’re still pretty early in the process. The jobs are going to start moving more this summer,” said Sheryl Hutchison, a spokeswoman for the state Employment Security Department. “A month from now, I hope to have a robust list of jobs.”

To make it easy to find those jobs, Gov. Chris Gregoire has ordered state agencies, grant recipients and contractors to post them for job hunters on the state’s Web site: www.go2work The site includes information on how to claim unemployment, a calendar of job fairs, and – on a typical day – more than 14,000 job openings.

“We get people saying, ‘Where are all these recovery jobs?’ ” Hutchison said. “Go to WorkSource. As they arrive, that’s where they’ll be posted.”

The state is also trying to get local agencies – cities, counties, ports, tribes, nonprofit groups – to also post stimulus-money jobs on the site. Among the jobs, Hutchison said, will be about $20 million worth of summer jobs for youths.

Stimulus dollars are also helping some people without jobs. At least until the end of the year, the federal government will pay nearly two-thirds of the cost for laid-off workers to continue health coverage through large employers. Food stamp benefits increased 13 percent in April. Unemployment benefits and student loans have also increased, and Social Security recipients are getting a one-time $250 payment in addition to their regular benefits.

As far as jobs, what else is coming?

A look through pending contracts suggests a lot of work for paving companies, road crews and construction firms. The feds are pouring money into “shovel ready” transportation projects, and the state has launched the biggest transportation construction season in history. Among major local projects under way: a massive six-bridge project for the North Spokane Corridor, awarded last year to Spokane’s Graham Construction.

Some of the federal money, such as $1.7 billion in higher federal Medicaid reimbursements, will largely preserve jobs that otherwise would have been lost to deep state cuts. The stimulus money also includes $1.6 billion to shield school programs from cuts. Among the latter: special education, technology and education for homeless children.

But other sectors are seeing an influx of new money:

Transportation: $671 million to support and create jobs while fixing roads, bridges and mass transit facilities.

The environment: $126 million for water and sewage treatment, cleanup of nuclear waste at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and cleaning up leaking underground storage tanks.

Renewable energy: $151 million to promote alternative power, conservation and energy-efficiency work on the homes of low-income people.

Public safety: $57 million aimed at work targeting drugs, domestic abuse and predators trolling for children on the Internet.

Affordable housing and economic development: $46 million.

There also are dozens of smaller niches in line to get stimulus dollars.

Millions are flowing through conservation districts, tribes and counties to improve fish and shellfish habitat.

More than $3.2 million is expected in Washington to help forecast wildfires and reduce the fuels they consume.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars are set aside for arts grants, and the feds have $4.7 billion nationwide for projects to boost high-speed Internet access in rural areas.

There are grants for businesses building better batteries, $300 million nationwide for rebates to help people replace old appliances with more efficient ones, and billions of dollars for rail projects.

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