Stimulus funds help, but aren’t perfect
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Kai Ryssdal: Back in March we had a guy named Dustin Woodman on the program. Dustin is the program manager for the Coconino Rural Environment Corps. That’s an AmeriCorp Program in Northern Arizona that helps young people in forestry and water conservation and other things like that. We had called him because we wanted to see what the economic stimulus package looked like from the ground up. From the people who were in line to get the money. When we talked, Dustin was in that line, waiting on for stimulus funds to trickle down to him. Some of it finally has, so we got him back on the phone. Dustin, good to talk to you again.
DUSTIN WOODMAN: Great to talk to you, Kai.
Ryssdal: Last time we spoke you were hoping to be able to put some young people to work out there with some of this stimulus money. Has that actually happened?
WOODMAN: It’s actually under works right now. We’ve begun to see the first of the recovery funding that we’re anticipating. And we’re looking to put some boots on the ground beginning the first week of July.
Ryssdal: How much money did you get?
WOODMAN: We got approximately $500,000 in AmeriCorp Recovery Grants.
Ryssdal: $500,000. That’s a lot of money.
WOODMAN: It is, and it’s going to go a long ways to create some temporary job training opportunities for local youth and young adults.
Ryssdal: Are you getting applications for those jobs?
WOODMAN: Absolutely. More than we can handle. We’re looking to probably field close to 55, 66 positions with this funding. And right now we’re receiving four to five applications for every position that we think we’re able to field.
Ryssdal: Do they have other options out there to work?
WOODMAN: To be honest, not many. There have been many service cuts here in our local area, reducing the number of summer opportunities for young people. Definitely unemployment has gone up within our county, and within our region. So I think that speaks to the great increase in applicants that we’re receiving for these very limited number of positions.
Ryssdal: When we talked you were hoping to get this all done by late April, early May, needless to say it’s a bit later than that now, isn’t?
WOODMAN: We’ve been in a holding pattern for several months really. All in hopes and in anticipation of the recovery funding enabling us to ramp up again.
Ryssdal: Is this money enough for you to get done what you want to get done there in Coconino County?
WOODMAN: Not entirely. All these funds requires some significant matching amounts, so we’re looking to our community partners. Our ability really to bring on these additional young people and field these boots on the ground is contingent on our ability to partner with outside agencies to accomplish their goals as well. So we definitely are working on building, retaining and strengthening those relationships.
Ryssdal: Give me a little tour through the bureaucracy of all this. Did you have to fill out an application, apply, call your congressman? How did you get the money?
WOODMAN: All current AmeriCorp grantees regardless of how the funding streams down to the programs were eligible for recovery funding. And I think that was a system put into place to ensure an expedient expenditure of the funding. Other funding sources we’re still looking out for and anticipate having to submit additional applications for.
Ryssdal: Sounds relatively painless.
WOODMAN: Well, I wouldn’t say that. It certainly is a good deal of work.
Ryssdal: So give the stimulus bill from your perspective on the ground there, give it a grade. Is it a gentleman’s c, or maybe a little bit better or worse.
WOODMAN: You know, at this point I’d go ahead and keep it in the B, B-plus category. I think the delays have probably been due to a lot of work at the federal level. Reconciling the need for expediency, and the need to get that funding out with the most transparent measures in place.
Ryssdal: Are you confident that you’re going to be able to see some kind of economic development benefit out there from this money?
WOODMAN: I think so. I think not only in terms of the training provided and the post-core placements for members but also in the accomplishments on the ground from the work being performed by our members. Stimulating the economy by providing more fulfilling and enriching recreational experiences for visitors to our area, which is a very large part of the local economy.
Ryssdal: Dustin Woodman. He’s the project manager for the Coconino Rural Environment Corp out there in Coconino County, Ariz. Dustin, thanks a lot.
WOODMAN: Great to talk to you again, Kai.
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