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Where is the Stimulus?

Black Groups Seek Funding

Sacramento Observer, News Analysis, Staff Posted: Jun 29, 2009

President Barack Obama says the funding is coming for communities of color in need. African American leaders across the country have heard him, but the question from Sacramento to Washington, D.C. is have the resources already been used?

President Obama has released a special report listing at least 100 Projects that it views as highlights of the projects underway in the Black communities around the nation, funded by the $787 billion economic stimulus that he announced about 100 days ago on Feb. 17.

Since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 100 days ago, resources have made their way into African American communities with investments in schools, health care, clean energy and other infrastructure projects, saving or creating thousands of jobs, says a statement leading into the list of projects. The Recovery Act is providing relief in hard hit areas and extending opportunities to those out of work and looking for a new path to prosperity.

The introduction continues, Here is a sample of the projects from the 100 Projects, 100 Days report that have impacted the African American community.

The report states that since the Recovery Act was signed, more than $112 billion in Recovery Act funds has been obligated to stimulative programs and projects and over 150,000 jobs have been created or saved by the Recovery Act.

The report was sent by email from Corey Ealons, the Presidents director of African American Media, in the form of a news release. It was headlined, President Obama Marks 100 Days of Recovery With 100 Projects, 100 Days Report. The sub-headline said, African American families, businesses, prepare for new opportunities from Recovery Act.

The release comes after last months press conference during with Obama, the nations first Black president, was asked about the rising rate of Black unemployment. His general answer, a rising tide lifts all boats, drew widespread ciritcism on Black radio and columnists throughout the nation.

I think the response to the presidents strategy of the rising tide lifts all boats was so negative on the part of many people, such as journalists, bloggers, and across the community and radio shows that I think the white House felt that it had to respond by putting together a specific list of projects for African Americans who are benefiting, says University of Maryland Political Scientist Dr. Ron Walters.

Theres been quite a bit of criticism that African Americans were not feeling the weight of the stimulus money thats coming into the communities. Even though some of us have been trying to say they should be forming task forces and things like that to begin to track those funds, they still feel that it has been a responsibility of the Whtie House to direct these funds into those areas that need them most. And so they havent heard that message. And I think this is an attempt to try to begin to get at that, he added.

Among the national projects, programs and benefits listed in the White House 100 Days report that the Administration says largely affected the Black community:

-Unemployed individuals, who were laid off, began collecting an extra $25 a week in unemployment benefits, paying 65 percent less for their COBRA health insurance premiums.

-Ninety-five percent of working families saw their take-home pay increase because of the Making Work Pay tax credit.

-Qualifying families saw their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits increase by over 13 percent.

-Fifty-four million seniors received $250 Recovery Act relief payments, with similar benefits going to veterans and other groups in the coming weeks.

-Thirteen different renewable energy and energy efficiency tax incentives were expanded or made newly available to consumers and businesses.

-The First-Time Homebuyers Tax Credit was expanded to help Americans receive a tax credit of up to $8,000 after the purchase of a new home and over $3 billion in those tax credits were paid out to qualifying home buyers.

-$5 billion in temportary assistance for needy families.

-$2.3 billion for child care and child vaccinations

-$1 billion in Community Service Block Grants

-$2 billion to expand Head Start and Early Head Start Programs

-$3 billion for improvements to public housing including energy efficiency upgrades

-$8.4 billion for public transit

-$500 million for training in green jobs.

-$155 million for community health centers across America

Black businesses and subcontractors across the nation have also expressed dissatisfaction at being able to secure contracts. However, the White House report says all contracts are subject to equally and anti-discrimination laws.

Resources used through the Recovery Act are subject to the same anti-discrimination policies as other funding made available through the federal government. The White House Office of Management and Budget has also issued directions noting that disadvantaged business enterprises should be given full consideration as project managers seek out vendors for Recovery Act projects. Visit the site at www.grants.gov to learn more about grants available through the Recovery Act.

Simply finding information has been another point of contention. The report states that Business interested in getting more information about opportunities in their area should consult their state or local Recovery Act implementation director through office of their local mayor or governor.

In Sacramento, community leaders have had meetings with several political and governmental leaders such as Congresswoman Doris Matsui and County representatives sharing their concern about the about the lack of communication about the stimulus.

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