Georgia’s state agencies spent $457.4 million in federal stimulus dollars over the last three months, funding 20,007 jobs, says a state report released Wednesday.
Most of those jobs are in state or local governments or public school systems, according to a state estimate. In all, the stimulus spending funded 18,304 jobs for teachers, college professors, police officers and other public positions between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. The rest-- 1,703 -- are in the private sector and other areas.
Georgia reported similar results last year when it released figures for the first eight months of the spending program, ending on Sept. 30. Nearly three-quarters of the 20,142 jobs Georgia officials attributed to federal stimulus spending then were for state and local government and school system workers.
Critics scoff at the $787 billion federal spending program, complaining it has added to the national deficit. They also point out that the unemployment rate has risen in Georgia and nationally since President Barack Obama signed the legislation creating the program in February.
"All this bill has stimulated is dependence on the federal government," Rep. Tom Price, a Roswell Republican and frequent critic of the spending program, said in a prepared statement Wednesday. "Americans are looking for sustainable private sector jobs, not jobs that will disappear just as soon as the stimulus does."
Some economists and other experts, however, agree the spending has reduced the severity of the recession by staving off layoffs of government workers and teachers.
"I don't know how happy people would be if large numbers of teachers at their kids' schools were to disappear and class sizes would double and so forth," said Philip Mattera, research director for Washington-based Good Jobs First, which is part of the Coalition for an Accountable Recovery. "Regardless of what you think about bureaucrats, I think you should think twice about criticizing saving teachers' jobs."
State officials also note that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act legislation does not make a distinction in what type of jobs should be created by the spending. It simply says one of its purposes is to "preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery."
Meanwhile, it’s impossible to tally the total number of jobs created or retained with stimulus dollars to date in Georgia – and across the nation -- because the White House recently ordered changes in the way those jobs are counted.
The government previously told recipients of stimulus dollars to count only jobs that were created and filled as a result of the spending or existing jobs "that would not have been continued" if not for the spending. The government, however, released new guidelines in December that require recipients to count all jobs funded with federal stimulus dollars, whether those jobs were in jeopardy or not. For example, raises paid for with federal stimulus dollars are now counted as fractions of jobs.
The new guidelines also require recipients to count jobs on a quarterly basis and not cumulatively. So from now on, the public will see only a three-month snapshot of jobs funded with stimulus dollars on the recovery.gov Web site.
Under the bill that created the spending program in February, agencies that receive the taxpayer money are required to report quarterly to the government on how they are spending it. Those reports are posted on recovery.gov for the public to see.
Georgia's figures do not include spending or jobs for local governments, nonprofits and businesses. The federal government is expected to post those statistics for all of the states on recovery.gov on Saturday.
To date, Georgia state agencies have spent only $1.1 billion of the $3.5 billion they have been awarded in stimulus funds. State agencies have spent the money on a variety of programs so far, including transportation improvements, aid for the homeless, research at universities and efforts to cut Internet-related crime against children.
State officials say will they spend more of Georgia's stimulus funds over the coming months and expect that will help create or save more private sector jobs.
"Most of it is (in) multi-year programs," said Sid Johnson, director of Georgia's Office of Stimulus Accountability. "So it is going to be spent over a two, two and a half -- whatever -- year period. Each grant is unique."
More details on Georgia state spending to date:
Area of employment and stimulus dollars
**Public Safety $155,006,525
Energy and Environment $30,862,279
Housing and Community Development $7,068,720
Total: $1.1 billion
*Includes $754,277,222 spent in "fiscal stabilization" stimulus funds (used to shore up government budgets during the recession) for public schools, technical colleges and universities.
**Includes $152,617,091 spent in fiscal stabilization stimulus funds for the state's departments of corrections, juvenile justice, revenue and public safety, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Projected job growth, unemployment and national debt
3.6 million -- number of jobs the White House Council of Economic Advisers predicted would be created or saved through the stimulus program nationwide
106,000 -- number of jobs the council predicted would be created or saved in Georgia
1.5 million to 2 million -- number of jobs the council attributes to the stimulus spending so far across the nation
600,000 to 1.6 million –- number of people the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said were employed as a result of stimulus spending through Sept. 30
1.2 percent up to 3.2 percent -- CBO’s estimate for the increase in Gross Domestic Product – a measure of the nation’s economic health -- as a result of stimulus spending through Sept. 30
10 percent -- the nation's unemployment rate as of December, which is up from 8.1 percent in February when President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
10.3 percent -- Georgia's unemployment rate as of December, which is up from 9.2 percent in February
$787 billion – the federal budget deficit the CBO estimated stimulus spending would create between 2009 and 2019
$1.35 trillion –- the national deficit as projected by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office for fiscal year 2010
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