The American people’s mandate for the 111th Congress – to repair the nation’s broken economy – demands not only that we create jobs for today, but that we build a foundation for America’s future economic growth. In January 2009, the unemployment rate skyrocketed to 7.6 percent, the highest unemployment rate in 16 years, and the nation lost nearly 600,000 jobs in January, the 13th straight month of losses. These indicators demonstrate the urgent need for short-term solutions to help the nation recover from recession and long-term investments to ensure our national economy emerges stronger than before. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 meets these requirements by including investments in infrastructure, energy, technology, education, and training that will help turn economic crisis into economic opportunity.
Transportation Infrastructure. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials has identified more than 5,000 "ready-to-go" transportation projects – roads, bridges, and mass transit projects – that could be under contract within 180 days. Funding these "ready-to-go" projects is important not only because the American Society of Engineers gave our nation’s infrastructure a "D," but also because a 2007 Federal Highway Administration Report found that for every $1 billion invested in highway construction, approximately 27,800 jobs are supported. In addition to job creation, a 2006 report from the Department of Transportation found that for every dollar invested in the nation’s highway system, the nation yields $5.69 in economic benefits in reduced delays, improved safety, reduced emissions, lower vehicle operating costs, and reduced maintenance costs. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act invests upwards of $40 billion on our nation’s highway and mass transit systems.
Energy. Investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency can be a tool to spur economic growth and job creation, while simultaneously better positioning our nation’s energy policy for years to come. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes $5 billion for the weatherization assistance program and the Department of Energy finds that this level of investment in weatherization assistance could create 375,000 jobs, directly and indirectly, and produce $13.6 billion in energy and non-energy related benefits. Funding energy efficiency programs like weatherization is also important because nearly 20 percent of energy consumed in homes is wasted and, in the first year alone, the recovery plan’s investment saves low-income families $413 in energy costs.
The plan also includes $2 billion in grants for advanced battery manufacturing which will be critical in creating battery manufacturing jobs in the United States. Currently, nearly all the batteries made for hybrid electric vehicles are manufactured in the Pacific Rim, despite the fact that U.S. demand for hybrid vehicles is strong and much more of the research and development on the batteries takes place in the U.S.
Finally, the plan includes a three year extension of the renewable energy production tax credit which is needed to ensure future investments in wind, geothermal, and biomass energy.
Technology and Science.According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, despite our struggling economy, the United States still leads the world in overall competiveness. This good news is tempered, however, by lower rankings in our technological readiness, lower-still rankings in educational preparedness, and concerns about our future competitive strength. It is clearer now than ever that in order for the United States to maintain its competitive edge in the future – the near future, it must make a wide array of investments in technology and science today. To this end, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes billions for cyber infrastructure to expand broadband access and usage in unserved and underserved areas across the nation. The plan also creates a three-tiered tax credit incentive for innovative investments in broadband infrastructure. These investments will ensure that all of America is able to take advantage of the job creation, innovation, and economic growth that comes from access to technology. The recovery package also includes investments for the National Science Foundation to build science infrastructure and improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.
Education. The economic crisis has created budget deficits in 46 states as unemployment rises and state revenues fall. These budget deficits have led to spending cuts in important areas like education. At least 26 states have cut or are proposing cuts to K-12 and early education programs. At least 32 states have implemented or proposed cuts to public colleges and universities. These cuts to state services weaken the quality of our children’s and young adults’ education; hinder their ability to reach their full potential and gain the skills needed to compete in an increasingly advanced and technological job market; and threaten our nation’s future economic viability. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will provide $39 billion to the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund for local school districts and public colleges and universities, allowing these institutions to prevent further cuts and maintain important programs for students. A $10 billion tax credit bond will fund new construction of schools, including funding for Indian schools. Families with 529 education plans will benefit from a provision that allows computers and computer technology to qualify as qualified education expenses allowing parents to purchase computers for their children with these savings plans. The plan will also invest in the Pell Grant program, which will enable nearly 7 million students to pursue a college education. The recovery plan’s Teacher Quality Partnership grants will improve the quality of teachers in the classroom and recruit highly-qualified individuals to join the teaching force providing enhanced support for students. These investments will ensure that our students are prepared for the challenges ahead and equipped with the necessary skills to succeed.
Training.In addition to educational investments, the economic recovery plan will provide billions in job training grants for adults, dislocated workers, and youth programs in an effort help un- and under-employed Americans find good-paying jobs, especially in high growth and emerging industries. Funds will also support green jobs training to prepare workers for new jobs created by the recovery plan, including the retrofitting of buildings, green construction, and the production of renewable electric power. Additionally, employment services grants will match unemployed individuals to job openings through state employment services agencies and provide customized re-employment services. Job training investments provide not only improved employment opportunities for individuals in the short-term, but will lead to long-term economic competitiveness for the United States.