The Economy Today: On Schedule?

Headlines from Maryland, Texas, Arizona, Wisconsin, and elsewhere

This morning, The New York Times observes that only a small portion of the stimulus funds has actually “reached state hands.” A great graphic shows that only $45.6 billion of the $787 billion has been spent. The Los Angeles Times quotes a speech by financier George Soros, who said that he’s noticing that the stimulus is starting to work and investors are getting back in the game.

Based on regional reports, much of this progress may be a heady mix of hope and speculation, as municipalities in Maryland, South Carolina, and Florida, among other states, are still trying to figure out how much money they’re going to get and what they’re going to spend it on. Those stories don’t square with Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks that the program is on or ahead of schedule, given that only 6 percent of the funds have been distributed, according to UPI.

Here’s where the stimulus is making headlines today.

Maryland’s Frederick County will receive $3.6 million in stimulus funds for transportation initiatives, The Gazette reports. In August, the county will present a final list of projects to the state for approval.

In South Carolina, the Myrtle Beach Sun-News urges Governor Mark Sanford to get out of the way of the stimulus funds. The op-ed says Sanford “will accept only some federal stimulus money and seeks to use it to pay down state debt - never mind that S.C. debt is bonded and that school districts and police departments desperately need the money to avoid layoffs that surely will reduce the effectiveness of public education and public safety.” The state legislature will likely override the governor on this one.

The Dallas Morning News reports that Texas legislators may be moving too slowly to build an override vote to counter Governor Perry’s veto of the bill to change unemployment benefits, a necessary step for eligibility for stimulus funds. More than $550 million is on the line, but Perry “and some business trade groups, though, have argued against accepting the funds because of required changes that would add about $80 million a year in costs.” The changes include “looking back as much as 18 months in determining a laid-off worker’s average wages; no longer disqualifying someone for benefits if he seeks only part-time work; and granting eligibility to workers who quit their jobs to follow a spouse to a new job.”

The Associated Press reports that the state of Wisconsin will receive $130 million in stimulus funds for water projects. The money will be used for “revolving loan programs and will be distributed by the state Department of Natural Resources, providing grants to municipalities to improve water infrastructure. The application deadline is June 30, and priority is to go to projects ready to proceed to construction in 12 months or sooner. “

Florida’s Daily Commercial says state schools are expecting $1.8 billion in stimulus aid, but some areas, such as the Lake District may still come up short in their budgets. Lake schools will have a $24 million shortfall. Leon County schools will receive $11 million, which may help bridge the gap this year, but leave schools struggling again next year.

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Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.