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Idaho Gets Four Times More Stimulus Money in Contracts Than Louisiana

New America Media, News Report, Aaron Glantz Posted: Oct 16, 2009

Idaho has received nearly four times as much money in federal stimulus contracts than hurricane-ravaged Louisiana. And Louisiana has three times as many residents.

According to data released Thursday on the government-run Web site Recovery.gov, sparsely populated Idaho has received $478 million in federal stimulus contracts resulting from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Federal recovery contracts there have gone to build a new water treatment facility in the city of Lava Hot Springs and to lay down a fresh layer of asphalt on remote roads in Clearwater National Forest.

Louisiana, by contrast, has received just $116 million in federal stimulus contracts. And most of the biggest contracts have gone to companies headquartered outside the state, including a $29 million contract to repair dikes along the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish (which went to a Texas company), and a $14 million plan to repair and rebuild a new airstrip at the Joint Reserve Base Naval Air Station in New Orleans (which went to a South Carolina firm).

According to Recovery.gov, only four of the 30,383 jobs created by stimulus contracts nationwide have gone to residents of New Orleans. Louisiana has benefited from a total of 563 jobs.

This information was released the same day President Obama paid his first visit to New Orleans as chief executive, telling participants at a town hall meeting, We will not forget about New Orleans and (we will) not forget about the Gulf Coast.

He touted good progress in rebuilding the Big Easy, and told the crowd over the last nine months, we have sent more Cabinet members to this region than almost anywhere in the country -- not just to make appearances, but to listen, and to learn, and help you move forward.

But, the dollar figures released by Obamas recovery task force raise serious questions about whether a real financial commitment has followed those visits.

They appear to indicate that while the Gulf Coast has received billions of federal dollars for hurricane relief and reconstruction since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck four years ago, the region is being left behind when it comes to funds from the stimulus package.

I dont see enough of that (investment) going on in New Orleans at all, said Vaughn Fauria, who heads up NewCorp, Inc., a community lender that helps small businesses obtain government contracts. Our businesses are not getting very big contracts, and when they do its because theyve partnered with another company from out of town.

Fauria said she wasnt sure why New Orleans was receiving such a small share of stimulus contracts, but speculated that it might partially be due to the actions or lack thereof of her states Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, who opposed the stimulus package and publicly refused to take some of the funds, which were to be used to prop up social programs.

Juhu Thukral of the New York-based civil rights group, The Opportunity Agenda, said the information released this week underscores a basic problem with the stimulus package that much of the money is being distributed by pre-set formulas.

When the money goes out in these existing pipelines, its not clear whether the money is going to states that need it the most, she said. Community leaders, she said, need to be writing letters, trying to make sure there are requirements (to track) race, gender and disability of people getting jobs.

No such requirements exist in the Recovery Act. In fact, companies are not even required to report the race or gender of their workers, and while large prime contractors indicate their race when they apply for a federal contract, no such requirement exists for subcontractors.

Still, the federal contracting dollars announced this week make up a small portion of the $787 billion Recovery Act. Not included, for example, is the $34 million the stimulus package provided to the New Orleans Housing Authority for rebuilding projects or the $14 million given to NOLAs transit authority for capital improvements.

Vaughn Fauria is applying for $2 million for NewCorp out of funds earmarked for Community Development Financial Institutions, which she hopes to leverage to provide millions of dollars in loans to strapped small businesses.

All those opportunities are available to residents of Idaho, too, of course. On October 30, the Obama administration will announce how it has spent those pots of money on Recovery.gov.

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