Thursday, February 26, 2009
Stimulus funds to help county, Childers says
By SUE WATSON
With the official signing of the $787 billion stimulus package passed by Congress, U.S. Rep. Travis Childers toured District 1 last week to explain how the package will affect Mississippians, particularly in the areas of tax breaks and additional funds for education.
Childers said the vote for the bill was a tough decision for him due to the size of the appropriation ($787 billion) and how the bill adds to an already burgeoning national debt.
“My great concern is the budget,” he said. “We’ve got to get some of this debt off of us. But my greatest concern was inaction.”
Childers said top economists, who advised Congress, said doing nothing would be far worse than this bill, even with its cost.
“The best economists in the U.S. overwhelmingly said this,” he said. “We didn’t listen to just one or two (economists).”
Of concern to Congressional leaders was the 3.7 million jobs lost since the recession officially was acknowledged in December 2007, he said. By December 2008, 104,000 Mississippians were out of work, Childers said.
If the stimulus bill does what lawmakers hope it will, Mississippi should see 30,000 new jobs in the state and District 1 (24 counties in Childers’ district) would be expected to add 9,000 more workers to the labor force, Childers said.
The bill provides nearly $250 million for education in Mississippi for the next two years with $49 million of that allocation going to the 24 counties of District 1.
The money goes directly to the school districts and can be used for existing federally funded education programs to states – stabilization funds to prevent teacher layoffs; No Child Left Behind grants; school improvement; school age children with disabilities; funding for early intervention for infants and toddlers with disabilities; educational technology grants; and child care development.
The Holly Springs School District will be eligible to receive $1.17 million and the Marshall County School District will be eligible for $1.6 million over the next two years (2009 and 2010).
“I hope the districts will use some of the money for building renovations,” Childers said.
Some other important provisions of the stimulus bill include:
Childers said his decision to vote for the stimulus package was thoughtful and not motivated by political considerations.
“Everytime I pick up a newspaper in our 24-county district and I read ‘Plant closing’ or ‘Layoff,’ I have concern,” he said. “Ten of our 24 counties are experiencing double-digit unemployment. The December 2008 figures for Marshall County were 9.6 percent, 1.6 percent above the state average.
“The fact that people are losing jobs, their health insurance, and people are suffering is the reason I felt I would be abandoning the people of the district if I had not voted for the stimulus bill. I felt like the good outweighed the bad.”
The tax credits make up about 35 to 40 percent of the package which means that the government will not be receiving these tax revenues for the two-year provisions of the bill. But the federal government will not be borrowing that money, which includes many tax credits for businesses, Childers said.
The stimulus package is Congress’s answer to Main Street U.S.A.’s distress during this economic recession, Childers said.
“We are helping Main Street by investing in America, North Mississippi and Marshall County with this bill,” he said. “I felt like inaction was not an option.”
Childers said he is optimistic that the stimulus bill will bring about an uptick in the nation's economy.
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