After weeks of speculation, some of it calculated with insider knowledge but most with amateur guess work, the House Democrats have released the draft of the much anticipated economic recovery package. Dubbed “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,” the legislation carries an $825 billion price tag divided between $275 billion in tax cuts and $550 billion in targeted investments. The release of the bill comes as signs abound of a deepening recession that has yet to reveal any light at the end of the tunnel.
Deemed his first priority, President-elect Barack Obama used his weekly address last Saturday to urge Congress to take swift action on the package. Just a little over one week ago the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Situation Summary for December 2008 that showed the nation’s economy lost half a million jobs for the second consecutive month and unemployment had risen to 7.2 percent. The economic recovery package has quickly taken on urgent necessity as most economists predict the recession to last into 2010. At the same time House Democrats were busy drafting the bill Mr. Obama was also requesting the release of the remaining $350 billion in TARP funds, the pool of money that remains from the Treasury Department’s initial bailout of financial institutions made vulnerable by the mortgage and credit meltdown.
The House package mirrors, for the most part, the principles expressed by President-elect Obama that were made more explicit in an analysis released last Saturday by the transition team as part of his weekly address. The bill offers a range of tax cuts and investments, or spending, in critical areas of the economy to spur job creation, stabilize vulnerable sectors, and lay the foundation for long-term economic growth and stability.
The bill is expansive in scope but does include provisions that are particularly relevant to the Black community. Among a number of provisions that will touch the community, they include the following.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance
$1 billion in recovery funding for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that helps low-income households and seniors pay for home heating and cooling assistance.
Head Start/Early Head Start
$2.1 billion to help expand Head Start/Early Start by an additional 110,000 children and the creation of approximately 50,000 jobs for Head Start teachers and staff.
Child Care Development Block Grant
$2 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) that will enable states to provide child care assistance to an additional 300,000 children in low-income working families and create paid work for an estimated 125,000 care givers.
Senior Nutrition Programs
$200 million in recovery funding to help local program operators support an additional 50 million meals for seniors.
Compassion Capital Fund
$100 million in recovery funding to ensure that secular and faith-based community organizations have the capacity to provide critical safety net services to needy individuals and families.
Prevention and Wellness Fund
$3 billion in recovery funding to support the discretionary immunization program that provides funding to public health departments to operate childhood, adolescent and adult immunization programs. Funds are also provided for the Preventive Health and Services Block Grant, which provides resources to State and local public health departments.
Education for Homeless Children and Youth
$66 million in recovery funding to increase grants to States to assist schools and districts provide meals, transportation and support services to an additional 205,000 homeless children and youth over two years.
$15.636 billion in recovery funding to increase the maximum Pell Grant by $500, from $4,360 to $4,860 for the 2009-2010 academic year. With the additional $490 million in mandatory funding, the maximum Pell grant would be $5,350.
$490 million in recovery funding, when combined with institutional matching funds, will result in $613 million that will be available for an additional 200,000 new students in fiscal years 2009 and 2010.
K-12 Repair and Modernization
$14 billion in recovery funding will be made available for school modernization, renovation and repair, to be allocated to States based on their FY 2008 allocation under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, after one percent being reserved for Bureau of Indian Affairs schools and outlying areas.
Higher Education Repair and Modernization
$6 billion in recovery funding for institutions of higher education for modernization, renovation and repair projects. Priority consideration will be given to institutions that serve high numbers of minority students, institutions impacted by a major disaster, and institutions proposing to improve energy efficiency.
Highway Infrastructure Investment
$30 billion in funding for ready-to-go, quick spending highway projects that will create 835,000 jobs across all sectors of the economy.
Capital Assistance to States – Intercity Passenger Rail Service
$300 million to states to fund necessary capital improvements to improve intercity passenger rail service.
Transit Capital Assistance
$6 billion in recovery funding for to purchase buses and equipment, and make improvements to intermodal and transit facilities that will create an estimated 165,000 jobs.
Capital Investment Grants
$1 billion for light rail lines, rapid rail (subways), commuter rail, automated fixed guideway systems, or bus-way/high occupancy vehicle (HOV) facilities that will create an estimated 35,000 new jobs.
Public Housing Capital Fund
$5 billion to rehabilitate units to improve energy efficiency, increase affordable housing projects that are ready-to-go, and address the housing needs of senior citizens and persons with disabilities.
Elderly, Disabled and Section 8 Assisted Housing Energy Retrofit
$2.5 billion in recovery funding to be awarded competitively to renovate and retrofit federally-assisted housing, including Housing for the Elderly, Housing for Persons with Disabilities and Project-Based Section 8 units.
Lead-Based Paint Hazards
$100 million in recovery funding to be awarded competitively to states and local governments to evaluate and reduce lead-based paint hazards in low-income housing and to nonprofit organizations to leverage private sector resources to eliminate lead poisoning as a public health threat to children.
Emergency Food and Shelter Program
$200 million to double the size of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) that provides funds to local community organizations to support food, shelter, and services to the nation’s hungry, homeless and people in economic crisis.
Workforce Investment Act Training and Employment Service
$4 billion in recovery funding to state and local workforce areas; adults ($500 million) for an additional 175,000 disadvantaged adults, $1.2 billion for youth services to create up to one million summer jobs, and $1 billion to provide training and reemployment services for an additional 270,000 dislocated workers. In addition, $500 million to respond to worker dislocations and $50 million to expand YouthBuild to serve at-risk youth.