The Economy Today: Three Feet Deeper

News from Portland, Helena, Sioux Falls and more

Nationally, The Washington Post reports that the $75 billion foreclosure prevention program, Making Home Affordable, has thus far been “implemented unevenly” by lenders overwhelmed by the demand from distressed borrowers. The New York Times outlines the administration’s plan to seek increased regulation of derivatives. USA Today reports on direct-sales jobs—like those for Avon or Mary Kay—calling them “recession-proof” and citing a trucker who has begun selling nutritional supplements with his wife.

Looking into a different sort of job, The Tennessean details the booming clean-up business, hired by banks to clean out foreclosed homes before auction.

The state of Tennessee will spend $62 million in federal stimulus funds on facilities for solar power generation and research: a 20-acre, five-megawatt solar plant that could generate power for 600 to 700 homes, and a “solar institute” geared towards creating green energy jobs and boost affordable clean energy technology. Gov. Phil Bredesen was eager to note that the solar plant would be located along Interstate 40, “so that everybody who travels through Tennessee can see exactly what it is we’re doing here.” (The U.S. Department of Energy will have to approve Tennessee’s plans before either project gets under way.)

The Oregonian reports that a project that would deepen the Columbia River shipping channel by three feet will get federal funding, thanks to Washington Sen. Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee (the money will go through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers). The project, slated to be completed by 2010, is supposed to help “ever-larger transpacific ships” better access the Port of Portland, though environmentalists aren’t all too happy about it.

Oregon policy-makers are trying to foster job creation to help at least some of Oregon’s 250,000 unemployed by passing a tax-credit plan that would provide a $2,000 tax credit for each job small businesses create between July and December.

Customers felt left in the dark this week when Advanta Corp., a Montgomery County, Penn., provider of credit cards to small businesses, decided to close cards to new charges after June 10, but failed to let customers know personally—leaving news reports to do the job instead.

Helena officials hope federal stimulus funds will help pay for a multi-year city-wide parks-improvement project, for which they will soon begin receiving contractor bids. But the state law determining how that money can be used has not yet become law, so officials remain unsure of whether the parks project will benefit from any of it.

Principals, teachers, and paraprofessionals in ten of South Dakota’s highest-need public school districts will receive bonus payments this month ($1.2 million for 1,060 educators), thanks to a federal grant intended to reduce turnover and ultimately improve students’ performance. The program, a departure from traditional school-pay systems—the payments are rewards for participating in leadership training, school planning and quality assessments—is in its second year.

On the stimulus front in South Dakota, the state will get $200.5 million in stimulus money (a large portion of it through the Bureau of Indian Affairs) to improve recreation facilities, restore wildlife habitats, and build new energy-efficient homes for families on two reservations. The latter would also likely encourage Native American contractors to make bids.

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Jane Kim is a writer in New York.