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Bill Radke It HAs been over a year since Congress signed off on the $787 billion stimulus bill. President Obama has claimed the measure saved about 2 million jobs last year. Reporter Adam Allington looks at how the stimulus has affected one Midwestern city so far.
Adam Allington: $35 million dollars in stimulus money is being used to turn this old munitions factory in North St. Louis into a new office building. Alderman Jeffrey Boyd says the project’s one of the largest investments his ward has seen in decades.
Jeffery Boyd: From my understanding there are over 400 construction jobs that are being created for this project.
But critics of the stimulus say projects like these have been too slow in coming.
Barb Geisman is the Economic Development Director for St. Louis. She says large-scale infrastructure projects like these can take months to plan and bid out before jackhammers start.
Barb Geisman: So, in some respects if you’re a distressed urban area it is harder to spend the money because you don’t have those shovel-ready projects sitting on the shelf.
Still, economist Jack Strauss says the stimulus has been beneficial for St. Louis and Missouri as a whole, largely by shoring up public budgets stressed by falling tax revenues.
Jack Strauss: The primary way that the stimulus has helped is that it has given states tens of billions of dollars and this has prevented layoffs — particularly in education — this is hard to see.
And with even tougher budget projections this year, Strauss says states and cities may be forced to lay off public employees — even as new waves of stimulus dollars roll in for construction projects. Strauss says it doesn’t make sense to hire a construction worker while laying off a teacher.
Strauss: Its cheaper and it makes more sense to save a job than to create a job, because the facility, the school, the police department is already there — so its actually cheaper because the capital is already in place.
St. Louis city officials say work is finally set to begin on a variety of infrastructure projects — from bridge and street repair to energy audits for the City Hall. The news comes at the same time Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has announced cuts in the state education budget of about 40 million dollars, a move which would likely result in hundreds of layoffs.
In St. Louis, I’m Adam Allington for Marketplace.
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