The first dollars from the $787 billion federal economic stimulus package arrive on the Treasure Coast this week.
But the bigger ticket items -- the ones designed to create jobs -- are months away at the earliest.
This week unemployment benefits in Florida grew by $25, up to $300 a week, as part of an agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Labor resulting from the stimulus bill, while President Barack Obama told the nation's governors the administration is releasing $15 billion Wednesday from the stimulus package to help them cover soaring Medicaid costs.
Also, those who are paid less than $75,000 a year might start to see a credit for up to 6.2 percent of their earned income appear on their checks once their employer adjusts the withholding taxes.
As for jobs being created and work undertaken, the Treasure Coast would be lucky to see shovels in the ground in late spring.
When asked when the first of the $12.2 billion designated for Florida could reach the Treasure Coast, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., initially said "immediately." But he added that for actual timetables, the local impact of the $787 billion bill relies upon the state Department of Transportation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which should be the first moving forward with the stimulus cash.
Other federal and state leaders from both parties are less certain as to when people in Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties may see the fruits of the stimulus package that two of its three Representatives and one of its Senators opposed.
Officials point to caveats written into the bill signed Feb. 17 by Obama that:
Limit transportation money to federal roads,
Say that about one-fourth of the money could be used by Gov. Charlie Crist to patch revenue shortfalls already projected in the fiscal year 2010 budget that begins July 1,
State that most of the money won't be released until after 2009.
"I guess it goes to the state now," said Rep. Tom Rooney, R- Tequesta. "It's going to the Army Corps, and the state will get the education and the transportation dollars."
States must demonstrate that they will use the money without delay.
For any construction to begin by late spring, both the state Department of Transportation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must stick with their current construction timelines.
The federal government has 21 days from Obama's signing of the bill to officially notify the states of how much money they will receive. The state Department of Transportation will then have up to 120 days to show how at least half the money will be spent, said DOT Planning and Policy Analysis Administrator David Lee.
Much of that time will be spent slimming down the DOT's $7 billion list of proposed stimulus road and bridge work that will be covered by the expected $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion the state will receive. The list currently includes $118 for the Indian Street bridge in Martin County and $110 million to widen State Road 70 from the Okeechobee County line east for 12 miles in St. Lucie County.
"We're hopeful there are states that can't use their money, that we'll be right there ready to go and make use of any money that becomes available that way," Lee said.
Crist, appearing on television's Meet the Press on Sunday, said he is doing what is best for his state rather than following the lead of the Republican party as the unemployed in Florida are facing "serious" challenges that need to be quickly addressed.
"My obligation, as in essence the CEO of the state, is to do everything I can to help us get through this tough economy," Crist said.
The stimulus bill also requires the Army Corps to designate its money for projects -- such as Everglades restoration construction -- by the end of the 2010 budget year.
The Corps should have its list of projects identified by the end of the month, said spokesman Gene Pawlik.
Once the Army Corps determines where to use the $4.6 billion it will receive, it will try to rapidly get the projects contracted or begin the contract bid process, Pawlik said.
"We plan to do everything we can to meet the guidelines in the legislation to get to these as quickly as we can," Pawlik said. "It won't be dedicated to one type of project or focused in one particular area of the nation . . . At the same time we want to make sure what we're doing is things that have lasting value."
STRUGGLING BECAUSE OF THE ECONOMY?
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WHERE THE MONEY GOES
Florida is projected to receive $12.2 billion from the economic stimulus package. While it will be up to various federal and state agencies to determine how the money is spent, the following is a list of where much of the money would go.
National School Lunch Program Equipment Assistance
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Emergency Food and Shelter Program
Drinking Water State Revolving Fund
Clean Water State Revolving Fund
Transit Formula Funding
Public Housing Capital Fund
Homelessness Prevention Fund
Community Development Block Grant
Internet Crimes Against Children Grants
Violence Against Women Grants
State Energy Program
Child Care and Development Block Grant
State Stabilization Fund
Title I Education for the Disadvantaged
Community Services Block Grant
Senior Meals Programs
Dept. of Labor - State Employment Service Grants
Dept. of Labor - Dislocated Workers State Grants
Dept. of Labor - Adult State Grants
Dept. of Labor - Youth State Grants
Dept. of Education - Vocational Rehabilitation
Dept. of Education - Special Education Part B, Section 611