In case any Pennsylvanians are still skeptical about the economic stimulus package that came out of Washington last year, the evidence of its impact is writ large across the landscape.
Last February Congress approved a $787 billion economic recovery program, $26.8 billion of which was allocated for Pennsylvania projects and residents. Although the state is still coping with an 8.9 percent unemployment rate, it is not for lack of investment by the federal government.
After the U.S. economy nearly collapsed in 2008, the nation's top economists, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, for the most part, agreed on the need for an urgent stimulus that would include tax cuts for businesses and individuals, spending on infrastructure projects like roads and bridges and grants for schools, communities, transit agencies and other organizations.
The state Department of General Services reports that $11 billion was paid to state residents in tax benefits; $13.5 billion was routed through state agencies for highway construction, school improvement, clean energy and other projects; and the remainder went to local governments or federal programs that support universities, fix locks and dams, improve housing or help businesses. All told, the dollars in Pennsylvania have translated into 12,000 jobs so far.
Allegheny County had its own benefits: $105 million for transportation, $26 million for energy projects, $115 million for school districts, $15 million for water and sewer repairs and $4 million for job training.
In the end, the first year of stimulus spending did not erase the nation's high jobless rate, although no one predicted that it would. More job creation efforts are necessary, but Pennsylvania and the nation would be in a deeper stew if this recovery program had not happened.