Creating and Saving Jobs, Boosting Household Resources,
Providing Assistance for the Vulnerable
On February 13, 2009, the Senate approved the final version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and sent the legislation to President Obama to be signed into law (P.L. 111-5). The Recovery Act is an extraordinary response by Democrats to an inherited economic crisis unlike any since the Great Depression. The legislation represents an unprecedented effort to jumpstart our economy, create and save millions of jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can not only recover but prosper once again.
Because of the strong transparency and accountability provisions that the Congress included in the Recovery Act, it is possible to track the early progress the Obama Administration has made in implementing these programs -and it is quite clear the effects of the legislation arealready manifesting themselves.
The Recovery Act has already had real-life impact on our families, communities, and economy, just three months after its enactment – as stimulus payments are released, tax cuts take effect, and government spending flows into the economy.
We have already seen companies rehiring laid-off workers, construction and renovation of facilities, and the re-starting of environmental remediation activities. In addition, by stabilizing state and local budgets, we have minimized and avoided reductions in essential services – keeping police on the street, teachers in our classrooms, and the unemployed afloat. Moreover, early signs of improvement at the macro-economic level, which some refer to as “green shoots,” are beginning to emerge in the housing and credit markets, providing some indication that the bottom of our economic free-fall is near.
Vice President Biden recently issued a first quarterly report on the implementation of the Recovery Act. He notes that in the first 77 days of the two-year Recovery Act program:
· 150,000 jobs have been created or saved;
· More than $88 billion dollars has been made available for programs and projects;
· Over 3,000 transportation construction projects have been funded in 52 states and territories;
· Ninety-five percent of working families have begun seeing the benefits of the Making Work Pay tax credit in their paychecks;
· COBRA health insurance premiums have been reduced by 65 percent;
· Unemployment benefits have increased by $25 a week;
· States have drawn down $15.7 billion in Medical Assistance (FMAP) funds, allowing them to avoid budget cuts; and
· Thirteen states have qualified for State Fiscal Stabilization Funds to improve education programs and save education-related jobs. [OVP, 5/2009]
This report provides an illustration of the way Recovery Act programs have already begun to: 1) create and save jobs, 2) boost household resources, and 3) alleviate the effects of the recession on the most vulnerable in our communities.
The Recovery Act Is Creating and Saving Jobs
As the following examples demonstrate, the Recovery Act has already begun to create and save jobs and: 1) improve the quality and security of our lives, 2) spur opportunities for recovery and growth, 3) make investments in our future, and 4) protect our nation’s resources and environment.
Jobs that improve the quality and security of our lives
Creating and saving jobs and strengthening the health of our families and communities.
· In March, President Obama announced the release of $155 million in Recovery Act funds that will support 126 new health centers. President Obama stated: "The construction and expansion of health centers will create thousands of new jobs, help provide health care to an estimated 750,000 Americans across the country who wouldn’t have access to care without these centers, and take another step toward an affordable, accessible health care system." [recovery.gov, 3/2/2009]
· The Department of Commerce announced the availability of $150 million in Recovery Act grants to create jobs and boost development in parts of the country hit hard by the recession. These funds will be administered by the Economic Development Administration to create jobs and generate private sector investment by promoting comprehensive, entrepreneurial and innovation-based economic development efforts. [DOC, 3/1/2009]
· In April, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the availability of $50 million in grants from the new Strengthening Communities Fund, which was created by the Recovery Act. The fund will strengthen nonprofit and faith-based organizations that aid families and communities who are struggling in the economic downturn.
· HHSalso announced that Head Start and Early Head Start programs will receive Recovery Act funding and be eligible to apply for grants worth $2.1 billion. Head Start will receive $1 billion, while $1.1 billion will benefit Early Head Start. These new funds will improve centers, serve tens of thousands more children and families, and create jobs. [HHS, 4/2/2009]
· In late April, the Corporation for National and Community Service swore in the first of up to 13,000 AmeriCorps members funded by the Recovery Act, putting boots on the ground to assist Americans hardest hit by the economic downturn. These volunteers will serve with nonprofit and faith-based groups, providing foreclosure prevention and financial counseling, expanding college access, helping ex-offenders re-enter society, organizing literacy programs, and supporting health care and independent living services. [CNCS, 4/24/2009]
Creating and saving law enforcement jobs and increasing public safety.
· In March, the Department of Justice began accepting applications for $1 billion in Recovery Act Funds for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Program. Approximately 5,500 law enforcement officer jobs will be created or saved in law enforcement agencies across the country through this funding. [DOJ, 3/16/2009]
· The Department of Homeland Security announced $1 billion in Recovery Act Funds for aviation security projects that will create 3,000 jobs in up to 17 states. This funding will accelerate the implementation of optimal checked baggage solutions and the enhanced detection of liquid threats in carry-on baggage. [DHS, 3/5/2009]
· In April, DOJ announced Recovery Act grants to save and create justice-related jobs in 20 states, territories, and the District of Columbia. These Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistant Grant Program funds will be used to maintain or increase public safety, while creating or retaining jobs within the law enforcement community. [DOJ, 4/29/2009]
· DOJ also began the process of awarding $100 million in Recovery Act funds to victim assistance and compensation programs. [DOJ, 4/24/2009]
Creating and saving jobs and improving the quality of life for our nation’s service members.
· In April, the Department of Defense announced $835 million in Recovery Act funds for more than 850 facility improvement projects in 37 states and the District of Columbia. These projects will stimulate the economy through job creation “while improving the quality of life for service members, their families, and DoD civilian workers.” These new projects are in addition to the $6.1 billion in infrastructure investments announced on March 20, 2009. [DOD, 4/28/2009]
· In mid-May, Vice President Biden announced DOD’s plan to temporarily expand its Homeowners Assistance Program with $555 million in Recovery Act funds dedicated to helping military families and DoD civilians who recently sold their homes at a loss. The expanded program will assist families forced to relocate due to base closures or normal assignment rotations. Priority access to the funds will go to survivors of those killed during deployment, and those who were wounded, ill or injured during deployment. [The White House, 5/14/2009]
· DoD has pledged to execute other Recovery Act funds as quickly as possible, including: $4.26 billion to upgrade thousands of Department buildings, including energy-related improvements and upgrades to military medical facilities; $2.18 billion for new construction (including $1.33 billion for hospitals); $120 million for improving the energy efficiency of existing facilities; $300 million to develop energy-efficient technologies; and $555 million for a temporary expansion of assistance to qualified military and civilian personnel who suffer financial loss on the sale of their primary residence. [DOD, accessed 5/14/2009]
Jobs that spur opportunities for recovery and growth
Creating and saving jobs and improving the quality of the housing stock and promoting energy efficiency.
· By the end of February, Housing and Urban Development had allocated all of its formula-based funding, representing nearly 75 percent of its Recovery Act funding, or $10.1 billion. [HUD, 2/25/2009]
- In March, HUD announced that public housing authorities can begin spending nearly $3 billion in Recovery Act funds to make significant improvements to tens of thousands of public housing units nationwide. This funding will allow local housing agencies to begin on a backlog of previously underfunded capital improvement projects, create jobs, and increase energy efficiency. [HUD, 3/24/2009]
- In April, USDA announced that it had begun disbursing the first wave of the $10 billion in guaranteed housing loans provided in the Recovery Act. This funding is estimated to create and save 42,500 jobs and provide thousands with home ownership opportunities for rural America. [USDA, S.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=2009/04/0083.xml" target="_blank">5/1/2009]
- In early May, HUD began soliciting grant applications under its Neighborhood Stabilization Program to make available nearly $2 billion in Recovery Act funding to states, local governments and non-profit housing developers to combat the effects of home foreclosures. These funds can be used to acquire land and property; to demolish or rehabilitate abandoned properties; and to offer downpayment and closing cost assistance to low- to middle-income homebuyers.
HUD will also provide up to $50 million in technical assistance grants to help grantees better manage their neighborhood stabilization programs. Applications for NSP technical assistance will be due June 8, 2009. [HUD, 5/4/2009]
· HUD offered nearly $1 billion in Recovery Act funds for improvements to thousands of public housing units nationwide. This includes funding to create more energy efficient public housing units, develop or renovate public housing projects stalled due to lack of resources, transform obsolete public housing projects into newly built or renovated developments, and improve public housing units and create community facilities for the delivery of medical and other services to the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities. [HUD, 5/11/2009]
· In mid-May, Vice President Biden announced that HUD is making nearly $100 million in Recovery Act funding available to help eliminate dangerous lead-based paint and other health and safety hazards from low-income homes. These grants will help 53 local programs in 20 states and the District of Columbia to protect young children from lead poisoning and create jobs. [The White House, 4/15/2009]
Creating and saving jobs and spurring opportunities for our nation’s small businesses.
- Under the Recovery Act, the Small Business Administration has expanded eligibility of 7(a) loans to spur opportunities for small businesses. More than 70,000 additional small businesses – including auto and RV dealerships, auto industry suppliers and others – could be eligible to apply for these loans. This will give small businesses access to capital to keep their doors open and employees working during these tough economic times. [SBA, 5/1/2009]
· The Recovery Act also temporarily eliminated some borrower fees on two programs and temporarily increases guarantees up to 90 percent on the 7(a) program, SBA’s largest loan program. The fee elimination means more capital available to businesses at a lower cost. The increase in guarantee levels will help provide banks with the greater confidence they need to extend credit during the current economic crisis, which will mean more capital available to small business owners across the country. [SBA, 5/3/2009]
Creating and saving jobs and expanding opportunities for Rural America.
In March, USDA took its first actions to implement the $28 billion in Recovery Act funds:
· The Farm Service Agency immediately used $145 million of the $173 million provided in the Recovery Act for its Direct Operating Farm Loan Program, which will give 2,042 farmers – almost 50 percent who are beginning farmers and 10 percent who are socially disadvantaged producers – direct loans from the agency. These loans will be used to purchase items such as farm equipment, feed, seed, and fuel and will stimulate rural economies by providing American farmers funds to operate. [USDA, S.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=2009/03/0051.xml" target="_blank">3/9/2009]
· The Rural Development Agency provided an initial $14.9 million ($1.17 billion in loan guarantees) to nearly 10,000 rural families for homeownership financing, creating or saving more than 5,000 jobs.
The Agency also released more than $400 million in pending applications for Water and Waste grants and $140 million in pending applications for Rural Development Water and Waste Direct Loans. Nearly 13,000 jobs will be created by 400 water and wastewater projects. [USDA, S.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=2009/03/0051.xml" target="_blank">3/9/2009]
· The Forest Service released almost $100 million of its $1.15 billion for Recovery Act projects to be used for hazardous fuels reduction, forest health protection, rehabilitation, and hazard mitigation activities on federal, state and private lands. Over 1,500 jobs will be created through shovel-ready projects that will be released this week for urban youth and individuals involved in urban forestry, restoration projects fire prevention, roads, bridges, buildings, and recreation facilities. [USDA, S.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=2009/03/0051.xml" target="_blank">3/9/2009]
· The Natural Resources Conservation Service released approximately $145 million in Recovery Act funds to restore frequently-flooded land to its natural state; create jobs in rural communities nationwide when landowners establish these floodplain easements; and restore and protect an estimated 60,000 acres of flood-prone lands through the floodplain easement component of its Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Signups for the easements were held from March 9 through March 27 nationwide.
The Service released $80 million in Recovery Act funds to improve fish and wildlife habitat and create or restore wetlands and $50 million for rehabilitating aging watershed structures to protect lives and property and public infrastructure. An estimated 2,100 jobs are directly related to these Recovery Act projects in the engineering and biological fields, additional specialized equipment operators, construction crews and many other diversified skilled laborers. [USDA, S.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=2009/03/0051.xml" target="_blank">3/9/2009]
Creating and saving jobs and cutting energy bills.
· In March, the Department of Energy announced an investment of about $5 billion through the Weatherization Assistance Program and about $3 billion for the State Energy Program to put 87,000 Americans to work and save families hundreds of dollars per year on their energy bills. The funding will support weatherization of homes, including adding more insulation, sealing leaks and modernizing heating and air conditioning equipment, which will pay for itself many times over. [DOE, 3/12/2009]
· DOE also announced plans to invest $3.2 billion in energy efficiency and conservation projects. The Recovery Act’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program will fund city, county, state, territory, and tribal projects that reduce total energy use and fossil fuel emissions, and improve energy efficiency nationwide. These investments will save taxpayer dollars and create jobs in communities around the country. [DOE, 3/26/2009]
Jobs that make investments in our future
Creating and saving jobs and laying the foundation for a generation of education reform.
· In April, the Department of Education made a first round of $44 billion in State Fiscal Stabilization Funds available to save jobs and improve education. These Recovery Act funds will help avert hundreds of thousands of estimated teacher layoffs in schools and school districts while driving crucial education improvements, reforms, and results for students.
To date, the Department has made billions of dollars of funding available to California, Illinois, South Dakota, Mississippi, Minnesota, Utah, Maine, New York, Georgia, Nevada, and Florida after the successful completion of Part 1 of the State Stabilization Application. The states will be eligible to apply for additional funding in the fall. [DoEd, 3/7/2009]
· In March and April, the Department announced that nearly $700 million in Recovery Act funding was available in for various programs including vocational rehabilitation state grants and impact aid construction.
Another $17.3 billion for Pell Grants and work-study funds is available for disbursement for the next academic year beginning July 1.
An additional $35 billion in Title 1, IDEA, and State Fiscal Stabilization Funds, as well as monies for other programs will be distributed between July 1 and September 30. [DoEd, 3/7/2009]
- In mid-April, the Department released $108.8 million in Recovery Act funding to states for targeted students and communities. This includes $39.6 million in 180 Impact Aid Construction grants for communities to help repair and modernize schools and alleviate overcrowding and $69.2 million in 52 Homeless Children and Youth grants to help states and school districts meet the educational and related needs of homeless students. [DoEd, 4/13/2009]
Creating and saving jobs and maintaining our nation’s leadership in science and innovation.
In March, the Department of Energy announced the availability of $2.4 billion in Recovery Act funding to putAmerican ingenuity and America’s manufacturers to work producing next generation Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles and the advanced battery components that will make these vehicles run. This initiative will create tens of thousands of U.S. jobs and help us end our addiction to oil. Americans who decide to purchase these Plug-in Hybrid vehicles can claim a tax credit of up to $7,500. [DOE, 3/19/2009]
· The DOE also announced $1.2 billion in Recovery Act funds for new science initiatives in ten National Laboratories in eight states. These projects will create thousands of jobs and breathe new life into many local economies, while helping to accelerate new technology development, renew our scientific and engineering workforce, and modernize our nation’s scientific infrastructure. [DOE, 3/23/2009]
· In May, the National Science Foundation began to solicit proposals for Recovery Act projects to repair and renovation at the nation’s academic research facilities. The $200 million in grants authorized by the Recovery Act will make investments in research and education that will build a stronger economic foundation for the country. [NSF, 5/11/2009]
Creating and saving jobs and developing clean energy.
InApril, the Department of Energy announced:
· $41.9 million in Recovery Act funding for fuel cell technology to expand the use of clean and renewable energy sources and reduce America’s dependence on oil. These efforts will accelerate the commercialization and deployment of fuel cells and create jobs in fuel cell manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and support services. [DOE, 4/15/2009]
Plans (along with the Department of Commerce) to develop a smart, strong and secure electrical grid, which will create new jobs and help deliver reliable power more effectively with less impact on the environment to customers across the nation. More than $3.3 billion in Recovery Act funds will be distributed in smart grid technology development grants and an additional $615 million for smart grid storage, monitoring and technology viability. [DOE, 4/16/2009]
· Plans to provide $93 million in Recovery Act funds to support further development of wind energy in the United States and more than $100 million in Recovery Act funding for National Renewable Energy Laboratory facility and infrastructure improvements. The U.S. now leads the world in wind energy generation and has led the globe in new wind energy capacity installations for the past four years. [DOE, 4/29/2009]
In May, DOE announced:
· $786.5 million in Recovery Act funds to accelerate advanced biofuels research and development and to provide additional funding for commercial-scale biorefinery demonstration projects. New green jobs a will be a benefit of this effort to end our dependence on oil. [DOE, 5/5/2009]
· $800 million in Recovery Act funds will be used to expand DoE’s Clean Coal Power Initiative, which provides government co-financing for new coal technologies that can help utilities cut sulfur, nitrogen and mercury pollutants from power plants. [DOE, 5/15/2009]
· $1.52 billion in Recovery Act funds for a two-part competitive solicitation for large-scale CCS from industrial sources. The industrial sources include sources like power plants, cement plants, chemical plants, refineries, steel and aluminum plants, and manufacturing facilities. [DOE, 5/15/2009]
Creating and saving jobs and investing in the safety of our transportation systems.
· In February,the Department of Transportation announced the release of $26.6 billion in Recovery Act funds to states and local transportation authorities to repair and build highways, roads and bridges. State highway departments have already identified more than 100 other transportation projects across the country, totaling more than$750 million, where construction could start within a month. [DOT, 2/3/2009]
On March 3, construction began on the first project: resurfacing Maryland Route 650 in Silver Spring, Maryland, which created 22 jobs. The 2,000th project approved is for rebuilding a $68 million interchange on I-94 in Portage, Michigan. Construction will start in June, creating 900 jobs this summer.
Overall, the Administration estimates that the highway portion ($27.5 billion) of the Recovery Act will eventually create or sustain 150,000 jobs. [DOT, accessed 5/14/2009]
In March, the Federal Aviation Administration announced $12 million for Pennsylvania airports. A $10 million allocation to Pittsburgh International Airport (which serves 4.8 million passengers per year) will be used to repair Runway 14-32, one of four commercial service runways. A $2 million allocation for Allegheny County will renovate a taxiway and relocate a ramp. Under the Recovery Act, FAA received $1 billion to allocate to qualified airports on a discretionary basis. About 3,400 airports designated as part of the national airport system are eligible to receive Recovery Act funds. [DOT, 3/12/2009]
· In March, Vice President Biden announced that Amtrak will receive $1.3 billion in grant funding from the Recovery Act. These funds will help create jobs and at the same time, repair and update critical needs of our nation’s infrastructure and result in tangible benefits to Amtrak’s passengers, including increased capacity (with fewer sold-out trains), improved operational reliability, and increased passenger comfort and accessibility at stations.
Amtrak’s hiring for Recovery Act projects represents a major investment, not just in infrastructure, but also in the railroad’s employees. As a large portion of Amtrak’s skilled workforce nears retirement age, workers hired for ARRA projects will be trained and ready to step in to a long-term role on the railroad. [DOT, 3/13/2009]
Jobs that protect our nation’s resources and environment
Creating and saving jobs and restoring habitat and promoting conservation.
· In March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will invest $280 million in Recovery Act funds for more than 770 projects to build visitors centers, improve infrastructure, and bolster conservation at national wildlife refuges and hatcheries across the country. These projects will create jobs and promote the conservation of our nation’s fish and wildlife. [DOI, 4/26/2009]
· In May, the Department of Interior announced $305 million in Recovery Act funds for more than 650 Bureau of Land Management projects across the country. The investments will restore landscapes and habitat, spur renewable energy development on public lands, and create jobs. [DOI, 5/2/2009].
Creating and saving jobs and protecting the country’s public health and our environment.
· In March, the Environmental Protection Agency announced an estimated $211 million in funding that will help create jobs for redevelopment nationwide and protect communities and the environment from diesel emissions. State and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and tribal agencies became eligible to apply for diesel grants and brownfields grants as of March 20. EPA plans to provide the funding in June. [EPA, 3/20/2009]
· In mid-March, USDA announced several Recovery Act projects for wildland fire protection and removal of hazardous fuels that began immediately. These projects will create thousands of jobs in California, Colorado, Florida, and Oregon. USDA anticipates creating 25,000 new jobs over the next two years on projects relating to land stewardship and watershed restoration, green infrastructure repair, and in the production of energy from wood. [USDA, S.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=2009/03/0061.xml" target="_blank">3/16/2009]
· In late March, EPA announced its first award of nearly $100 million in Recovery Act funding to be invested in Colorado. These resources include more than $65 million for improving drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. [EPA, 3/27/2009]
· At the end of March, the Department of Energy announced $6 billion in Recovery Act funding to accelerate environmental cleanup work and create thousands of jobs across 12 states. Projects identified for funding will focus on accelerating cleanup of soil and groundwater, transportation and disposal of waste, and cleaning and demolishing former weapons complex facilities. [DOE, 3/31/2009]
· In early April, EPAmade a $430 million grant in Recovery Act funds to New York for wastewater infrastructure projects. This was the single largest grant in EPA’s history. New York will use the Recovery Act grant to provide money to municipal and county governments and wastewater utilities for projects to protect lakes, ponds and streams. [EPA, 4/3/2009]
The Recovery Act is boosting household resources through stimulus payments and tax cuts
For families and individuals hit hard by the economic crisis, the payments that Congress included in the Recovery Act have already helped them make ends meet during these difficult times:
In April, American households begin receiving their Making Work Pay tax credit.
Beginning on April 1, 2009, the majority of the 129 millionbeneficiaries began receiving their Making Work Pay tax credit directly in the form of increased take-home pay (due to decreased withholding). Other beneficiaries will claim the credit on their tax returns.
Congress created this tax credit to benefit 95 percent of our nation’s working households, providing up to $400 (for individuals) or $800 (for married couples filing jointly). The credit is fully refundable so that low-income workers can benefit.
In May, seniors began receiving their $250 stimulus one-time payments.
Disbursements to 64 million beneficiaries of the one-time stimulus payments began in early May, with the $250 payments first going to those receiving Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These payments will continue throughout the month of May.
The next payments will be sent to recipients of Railroad Retirement Board benefits in late May. [RRB, 4/2009] Disabled veterans receiving Veterans Compensation and Pension benefits will begin to receive their payments in June. [Treasury, 4/9/2009]
Other Recovery Act tax cuts and incentives included targeted at middle-and lower-income families have given a direct boost to after-tax income.
· Expansions to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that will help low- and middle-income married couples and families with children;
· Expansions to the Child Tax Credit (CTC) that will enable lower-income families to take advantage of the credit;
· The American Opportunity Tax Credit, which expands tax credits for college education, and offers the credits to a wider range of families; and
· Temporary tax cuts designed to boost the economy and help middle-class families, including a tax credit for first-time homebuyers and a deduction for car purchases.
Special small business tax provision was announced in March.
For families that rely on their small business income to support themselves, the Internal Revenue Service announced that small businesses with deductions exceeding their income in 2008 can use a new net operating loss tax provision to get a refund of taxes paid in prior years. Now, thanks to the Recovery Act, eligible small businesses with large losses in 2008 have been able to benefit fully from those losses now, rather waiting until claiming them on future tax returns. [IRS, 3/16/2009]
The Recovery Act is providing assistance for the most vulnerable who have been hurt by the recession.
Congress included many provisions in the Recovery Act as a part of its commitment to putting Americans back to work so they can re-build the financial fabric of their lives. This includes:
Expanded unemployment insurance.
· In February, the Department of Labor announced a weekly increase in unemployment compensation, enacted as a part of the Recovery Act. The Recovery Act increases the weekly benefit by $25 and extends benefits so that middle-class workers can better replace their lost income if they lose their jobs, as well as a provision to exclude UI benefits from taxable income.
States began to make the extra payments as early as the week of March 1, 2009, for weeks of unemployment effective Feb. 22, 2009. [DOL, 2/26/2009]
· The Recovery Act also made a total of $7 billion available in UI Modernization incentive payments to states that include certain eligibility provisions in their state UI programs. Each state can qualify for a share of those funds by showing that its law includes certain provisions.
To date, the Department has released unemployment insurance modernization incentive funds to Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and South Dakota. [DOL, accessed 5/14/2009]
Subsidy for former employees to continue their health care insurance.
- Under the Recovery Act,eligible former employees who were enrolled in their employer’s health plan at the time they lost their jobs are required to pay only 35 percent of the cost of COBRA coverage. Employers must treat the 35 percent payment by eligible former employees as full payment, but the employers are entitled to a credit for the other 65 percent of the COBRA cost on their payroll tax return.
- In March, the Labor Department published more information to help the public understand how the program works and how they can qualify for the premium subsidy for continuation of health coverage under private, state and federal programs. The model notices enable employers to quickly spell out for former employees and their families how to take advantage of COBRA coverage and the subsidy. [DOL, 3/19/2009]
Training and other assistance to workers affected by the recession.
· In March, the Department of Labor issued policy guidance to grantees of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) for the implementation of an additional $118.8 million in Recovery Act funds. This critical investment is designed to increase services and training for unemployed, low-income seniors, and to invigorate and advance prosperity in the communities where they live. This funding will expand the number of SCSEP participants assigned to community service work, particularly in high-growth job sectors such as health care, child care, education, green jobs, energy efficiency and environmental services. [DOL, 3/20/2009]
In April, the Department of Labor announced a nearly $628,000 grant to assist workers in Maine affected by home construction industry layoffs. The grant will provide workers with access to dislocated worker services. These services may include individual career counseling, skills assessment, and basic and occupational skills training. [DOL, 4/23/2009] The Department also provided grants to Ohio (for layoffs in the natural resources industry) and Missouri (to assist workers with mass layoffs and plant closures).
· On May 18, Recovery Act-mandated reforms to the Trade Adjustment Assistance program took effect to ensure that all U.S. workers negatively affected by trade have the skills, resources and support to become re-employed. Reforms include an increase in the annual cap on TAA training funds from $220 million to $575 million. [DOL, 5/18/2009]
Expansion of safety net programs to help lower-income, vulnerable families deal with the hardships of the recession.
· In February, HHS announced that the first two quarters of Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funding, more than $15 billion in federal funds for Medicaid programs in all fifty states, was available. When Americans lose their jobs, many also lose their health insurance and rely on Medicaid to obtain coverage for themselves and their families. Funds made available to states in February could provide Medicaid coverage for as many as 20 million Americans. The Recovery Act included almost $87 billion over two years in additional federal matching funds to help states maintain their Medicaid programs. [The White House, 2/23/2009]
· In March, USDA provided an additional $5 million in Recovery Act funding for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations for facility improvements and equipment upgrades. This program provides a vital service: reservations and tribal lands are often remote with limited service from grocery stores. It provides commodity foods to low-income households, including the elderly, living on Indian reservations, and to Native American families residing in designated areas near reservations and in Oklahoma. [USDA, S.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=2009/03/0051.xml" target= "_blank">3/9/2009]
· USDA also provided $25 million in Recovery Act funding to support administrative functions for the Emergency Food Assistance Program in March. Through this program, USDA provides commodities and administrative funds to states for further distribution to local organizations that assist the needy, including food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens. [USDA, S.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=2009/03/0051.xml" target="_blank">3/9/2009]
· HHS awarded $100 million in Recovery Act funding to provide meals to tens of thousands of low-income older Americans in need. The funding will provide an estimated 14 million meals nationwide though 56 states and territories and 246 tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. [Recovery.gov, 3/18/2009]
· On April 1, a 13.6 percent increase took effect for the monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) benefit for recipients. This is roughly $80 per family per month.
The SNAP program serves over 31 million people each month. The influx of funding will not only help those struggling during these tough economic times but stimulate local economies. It is estimated that for every five dollars spent through SNAP, $9.20 of local economic activity is generated.
In addition, the Recovery Act provides nearly $300 million to help states administer SNAP. The first $145 million was released in March to assist States in responding to increased need.
· In April, HHS announced the availability of up to an additional $5 billion in new emergency funding for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in 17 states to help serve more families seeking employment opportunities and other forms of assistance during the economic downturn. [HHS, 4/3/2009]
· HHS also announced plans to make $1 billion in Recovery Act funds available for the Community Services Block Grant program. These funds will be used to provide services and activities addressing employment, education, housing, nutrition, and emergency services to combat the central causes of poverty. [HHS, 4/10/2009]