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Sen. Gillibrand helps pave the way for stimulus spending on child care

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

Washington, D.C. – At the urging of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the Department of Health and Human Services today provided spending and reporting guidelines for counties that received child care funds in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Until today, local officials have been unable to spend these funds because the federal government had not yet provided guidelines for the program. Counties can spend these federal dollars to meet a broad range of needs for their child care centers, including restoring kindergarten seats, saving child care programs from getting cut, and paying for salaries.

“This is great news for counties across New York that have been waiting for the federal guidelines needed to put these funds to use for families that rely on these centers for quality, affordable child care,” Senator Gillibrand said. “I would like to thank Secretary Sebelius for responding so quickly to my request and for understanding that in these tough economic times we need to speed the process of providing federal assistance for these important services.”

New York State’s Office of Children & Family Services received $96.8 million in May to help provide New York families with affordable child care over the next two years through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which Senator Gillibrand helped pass earlier this year. Approximately $84 million will be allocated to counties across New York over the next two years -- helping approximately 123,000 New York children enrolled in county child care programs.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Senator Gillibrand asked that the agency immediately take steps to issue federal guidelines to New York State for distribution of the funds.
Full text of the letter:

September 22, 2009

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
United States Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC  20201
Dear Secretary Sebelius:

I write to express my urgent concern regarding New York State’s inability to release the $96.7 million in federal child care stimulus funds that it has received under the under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“ARRA”).  New York State’s Office of Children and Family Services received these funds in early May of this year, but has been unable to distribute them to its social service districts because it has been unable to obtain federal guidance on the allowable uses and reporting requirements for these funds pursuant to Section 1512 of the ARRA.

Thousands of working families in communities throughout New York State have not been able to access the assistance they desperately need in order to pay for childcare.  Without access to quality childcare, parents risk missing work and losing jobs they need to support their families.

I was a strong supporter of the economic recovery plan, and I continue to support the tremendous work you and President Obama are doing to provide emergency assistance to middle income and low income Americans in need during this economic crisis.  I know you agree that we must make sure that families receive assistance as soon as possible.

I urge you to act quickly to provide guidance to the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, and similar agencies throughout the nation, so that working families no longer risk losing access to quality childcare.

Very truly yours,

Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senator

Rochester homeless program receiving $4 million in stimulus funds

By Howard B. Owens

It would be illegal to use stimulus funds to help struggling dairy farmers, according to Gov. David Paterson's office.

Dairy farmers, of course, create and retain jobs and help provide an essential food product. Agriculture is a significant part of Upstate New York's economic well being.

Meanwhile, the D&C reports today that Rochester's homeless program, with a regular annual budget of $400,000, is receiving $4 million in stimulus funds.

No slam here against the homeless or helping the needy -- government handouts to both dairy farmers and the homeless raise certain small-government and free market philosophical issues ... but, isn't something amiss here? 

If stimulus money is supposed to, you know, stimulate the economy (at least in theory), shouldn't it actually go to programs that, you know, might actually stimulate the economy?

Paterson includes Batavia's Bank Street in infrastructure funding

By Howard B. Owens

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Batavia will receive $411,000 for improvements to Bank Street as one of many projects around the state approved for funding by Gov. David Paterson

Bank Street is one of several projects the city sought funding for through state-controlled federal stimulus dollars. 

The project includes a new waterline, sidewalks and roadway between Washington and North Streets.

Paterson announced yesterday that the state will hand out $34.7 million in grants that will "help expand affordable housing, revitalize New York's Main Streets, and modernize local infrastructure."

Batavia's funding comes from a federal program called Community Development Block Grants.

Paterson's office claims the spending will result in leveraging an additional $48 million in resources, but the press release does not fully explain that statement. It seems to mean some of the projects will require local matching funds or other contributions.

"These grants will make a difference in urban and rural communities across New York. Neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, the Community Development Block Grant and New York Main Street programs will further local development so that our communities thrive," Governor Paterson said. "Improving and upgrading infrastructure, revitalizing traditional downtown business districts, and rehabilitating and renovating housing for working families will provide much-needed investment and make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family."

No word on the City's other grant requests.

(Thanks to a reader tip for bringing this to our attention.)

Genesee County apparently tops list of per-person funding for stimulus money

By Howard B. Owens

Apparently, Genesee County is so far slated to get an out-sized portion of Federal stimulus funds.

From the Jamestown Post-Journal:

Last week, an Associated Press study found that stimulus dollars announced so far are not going where they are needed the most and that stimulus spending is 50 percent higher in counties with the lowest unemployment rates compared to counties with the highest even though it is meant to put people back to work.

That holds true across New York state, according to an analysis of AP's figures by The Post-Journal. According to the analysis, eight of the top 10 counties receiving the most stimulus money per person in New York state are not in the top 10 for unemployment.

At the top of the list is Genesee County, which stands to gain $5.5 million in stimulus funding approved so far, or $93.81 per person, even though it ranks 34 in unemployment with a rate of 8.9 percent. Next is Seneca County, which stands to gain $3.1 million, or $91.70 per person, even though it ties Genesee County with an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent.

Likewise, eight of the 10 counties with the highest unemployment rates are not in the top 10 for stimulus funding. At the very bottom is Lewis County, which stands to gain only $842,667, or $31.83 per person, with an unemployment rate of 11.9 percent. Next is Hamilton County, population 5,075, which has so far gotten nothing but has an unemployment rate of 11.8 percent.

I haven't been able to find the original AP story to double check the figures. 

According to this article, however, Genesee County wasn't included in any of the latest round of my released by Gov. Paterson.

Batavia to receive $700,000 in stimulus funding

By Howard B. Owens

We've just received a copy of a press release from the governor's office which says the City of Batavia will receive $700,000 to repave Route 98 between Main St. and Noonan Drive. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2009.

From the press release:

Governor David A. Paterson today announced that the Rochester area is expected to receive at least $74 million in transportation and infrastructure funding through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). This critical funding will go toward much-needed highway and road repair, bridge span work and other long-term improvements to the region’s infrastructure and will create an estimated 1,776 jobs. The Governor was joined by Senator Charles E. Schumer at a New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) Maintenance Facility in Canandaigua.

“I want to thank President Obama and New York’s Congressional Delegation for their work to secure these funds, which will provide Rochester-area projects with the financing they need to move forward,” Governor Paterson said. “These investments update aging infrastructure, making our roads, highways and bridges safer, while also creating jobs, bolstering economic development and ensuring a brighter future for our State.”

In addition to these funds, the DOT will also award $82 million in traditional highway and bridge contracts next year to the Rochester area. This region will also receive approximately $29 million in Consolidated Highway Improvement Program funding, which the recovery funds enabled us to restore to the State budget. In total, the Rochester area will receive more than $185 million in highway and bridge funding in State Fiscal Year 2009-10.

UPDATE: Shortly after originally posting this, I interviewed Charlie Mallow about the funding, then before I could post it, I ran out to cover the fire in Corfu. Here's a few minutes of Charlie talking about stimulus money, other grants and ongoing improvement projects.

Gov. Paterson set to announce that Batavia will receive some stimulus funding

By Howard B. Owens

We just received this message from City Council President Charlie Mallow:

I just received the word from the governor's office that Batavia will be included in the first round Transportation Stimulus announcement tomorrow morning in Canandaigua.  Although I have few specifics regarding the exact announcement as it pertains to our city, it is my understanding that there is at least one city project will be included. I will be attending to represent the city tomorrow, Thursday, April 9, 10 AM at  125 Parish Street, Canandaigua.

Governor Paterson will announce transportation Stimulus funds at a DOT maintenance facility in Canandaigua. Ground breaking for this work will start within 180 days.
My apology for the the lack of information as to what streets will be receiving the repairs, I will have more for you after the meeting.

UPDATE: Rose Mary Christian left the following remark in the comments:

I'm very happy that our city will be on Governor Patterson list to recieve some of the stimulus money from the state. I must say Jason Molino and Sally Kuzon worked very hard for Batavia to compete against other communities. The city taxpayers should be very pleased with this process because it was their money ( from the VLT) to put into this project. It was our manager and his assistant who presented this to our Albany officals. Great job Jason and Sally, Rose Mary

Buffalo attorney's lawsuit aims to halt government funds used in economic development

By Howard B. Owens

Buffalo attorney Jim Ostrowski lost the first round in his legal fight against New York State grants and government loans to businesses, but he's pushing forward with his crusade against "corporate welfare."

GCEDC's VP of marketing and communications, Chad Zambito is concerned that efforts such as Ostrolwski's could undermine economic development tools such as empire zones and damage efforts to bring business to Western New York.

"What it really does is it sends ends a message to site selectors nationwide that New York is really unfriendly to business," Zambito said. "It certainly sends a message to business people who might be looking at New York State that we might not be the most stable environment."

Zambito said Ostrowski's effort, if successful, would hurt the state because of New York's excessive tax burden.

Ostrowski doesn't buy it.

"That’s a really bad argument," Ostrowski said.  "If you look at Pennsylvania and Ohio, to reduce our taxes to their level, we would have to cut $40 billion out of the budget. Now corporate welfare only moves around about $1.5 billion per year, so it’s not an effective tool to compete with other states (with lower taxes)."


A lawsuit filed by Ostrowski on behalf of a number of people claims that New York's state Constitution forbids government loans and gifts to private enterprises, and for good reason.

Part of the lawsuit reads:

Prior to 1846, the State of New York provided large loans and grants to private
business allegedly for economic development.

When many of these projects failed, state taxpayers were left with a fiscally
unstable state government and much higher taxes to pay off loan guarantees.

To remedy this problem, the state constitution was amended in 1846 to ban loans
to private firms.

The voters approved the amendment, 221,528 to 92,436.

In 1874, the provision was expanded to include a ban on giving the money of the
state to private firms.

State lawmakers sought to amend the Constitution in 1967, but voters defeated the proposal by more than two million votes.

"In the years that have passed, state officials have acted as though the 1967 amendment had become law," the lawsuit reads.

Ostrowski lost his lawsuit, but the decision is now on appeal.

"There is no scientific or economic study that has ever shown these (economic development) policies to be effective," Ostrowski, adding later, "The main question is what gives these bureaucrats that run these agencies any expertise at all what business projects to pursue. Those decisions should be made by entrepreneurs in the market place."

The ECEDC has a number of promising projects on the board, however, has three major projects on the board, including Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, Upstate Med & Tech Park and Commercialization Center, and the Science, Technology, Advanced Manufacturing Park in Alabama. There is also the possible revitalization of the Harvester Center area, which could also potentially use some extra government funds.

Zimbito doesn't think the lawsuit is any threat to these ongoing projects, but he does think it runs counter to the stimulus incentives being laid out by the Obama Administration.  The suit, if successful, could prevent New York from getting further stimulus aid, with that money going to other states instead.

"The stimulus money is taxpayer dollars to spur investiment and stimulate the economy," Zambito said. "That’s based on a lot of grants and a lot of low interest loans. So I’m not sure how that’s going to play with all this stimulus money that’s coming through state channels. I think that would put a damper on it, and by the sound of it it would put a halt to stimulus dollars as well."

Naturally, given that this is New York, Ostrowski may not even need to win the appeal to achieve the same effect. According to this Dave Catalfamo column, the governor is doing his best to kill of empire zones by making them uninteresting to migrating businesses.

Manufacturers, which are already in danger of joining New York’s Karner blue butterfly on the endangered species list, are now required to generate $10 in economic activity for every $1 in state tax breaks. And the state is ... demanding non-manufacturers to deliver a 20-to-1 return.

Finally, when thinking about government money going to private enterprise for large scale projects, it's always best to keep the downtown mall in mind.


Rural towns face challenges in securing stimulus funds

By Howard B. Owens

Rural towns may find it hard to compete against metro areas for stimulus funding, according to an Associated Press report.

Big cities have more shovel-ready projects and deeper pockets to fund staff time to make applications.

"I feel that we're at an unfair disadvantage because I can't put a staff of 10 on to go out there and see what we can qualify for," Silver City Manager Alex Brown said.

Gov. Bill Richardson and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish said at a news conference last week rural communities need help to get their share of the federal money.

"Some rural communities, they don't have the staff and the expertise, in some cases, to make some of these submissions" required to apply for stimulus money, Richardson said.

Meanwhile, on small town in Vermont was surprised to find that it had to come up with 20 percent matching funds to qualify for stimulus aid on a project.

The town submitted its applications and learned it must come up with 20 percent in matching funds.

"We are at a definite disadvantage there is no way we can raise that kind of money," Viskup said.

The town says the 20 percent match was never mentioned and expected the stimulus money would fully fund the projects.

$102 million in stimulus aid on its way to WNY schools - UPDATED

By Philip Anselmo

Nearly $1.7 billion in education aid will make its way to New York schools from the stimulus package, Sen. Charles Schumer announced today. That $1.7 billion will be direct aid, he stressed, in addition to another $4.7 billion "in additional education and other aid to New York State schools."

Of that, the Western New York districts will see $102 million. We have not received the details on a county-by-county breakdown, but we hope to have the specific figures for you later this morning.

Details from the press release:

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that the economic stimulus package will include nearly $22 billion in direct education aid through the Title I and Special Education/ Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) federal formulas nationwide. Upstate New York is estimated to receive a total of approximately $320 million in new funding for Special Education and approximately $176 million in Title I grants, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and the Department of Education respectively, for a total of $496 million in new direct funding to Upstate New York schools. This funding will give New York’s school districts the flexibility and tools they need to keep serving and educating our children.
Here is how the funding will break down across the state:

    * Capital Region schools will receive an additional $36 million in Special Education/IDEA funding and $14 million in Title I grants for a total of $50 million in direct school aid.
    * Central New York schools will receive an additional $37 million in Special Education/IDEA funding and $25 million in Title I grants for a total of $62 million in direct school aid.
    * Hudson Valleyschools will receive an additional $94 million in Special Education/IDEA funding and $37 million in Title I grants for a total of $131 million in direct school aid.
    * North Country schools will receive an additional $21 million in Special Education/IDEA funding and $11 million in Title I grants for a total of $31 million in direct school aid.
    * Rochester-Finger Lakes schools will receive an additional $48 million in Special Education/IDEA funding and $32 million in Title I grants for a total of $79 million in direct school aid.
    * Southern Tier schools will receive an additional $24 million in Special Education/IDEA funding and $13 million in Title I grants for a total of $38 million in direct school aid.
    * Western New York schools will receive an additional $58 million in Special Education/IDEA funding and $44 million in Title I grants for a total of $102 million in direct school aid.

Updated (11:55 a.m.): We received the full report from Sen. Schumer's office. Genesee county will receive a total of $3 million in direct aid stimulus funding. That will be divided as follows:

• Alexander Central School District: $265,618
• Batavia City School District: $983,317
• Byron-Bergen Central School District: $340,026
• Elba Central School District: $172,529
• Oakfield-Alabama Central School District: $309,421
• Pembroke Central School District: $332,549
• Pavilion Central School District: $258,944
• Le Roy Central School District: $371,503

You can download the complete report here.

Schumer announces millions in relief for WNY - nothing yet for Genesee Co.

By Philip Anselmo

Sen. Charles Schumer, in tandem with newly appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, issued nearly twenty press releases this morning on funding earmarked for upstate New York communities in the upcoming federal omnibus bill. None of that money has yet been tagged for projects in Genesee County, at least not according to the announcements out of Schumer's office. Buffalo and Niagara Falls were both listed as recipients of significant funding.

Buffalo was awarded $950,000 for its Main Street revitilization project. Niagara Falls will receivie $950,000 to ramp up its "international railway station." Tack on funding for university and medical projects, railway infrastructure and tourism, and the funding level for the greater Buffalo region tops $3 million.

From an article in the Buffalo News this morning:

The money for Buffalo and Niagara Falls will be included in an omnibus federal spending bill funding government operations through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. The House is scheduled to vote on the bill today, with Senate consideration set for next week.

Rochester also looks to benefit. The George Eastman House is on the bill for $381,000 "to preserve and allow access to museum library collections through new Web applications."

From the press release:

"This is terrific news for the entire Rochester community," said Schumer.  "The George Eastman House is one of the oldest and most revered photography and film museums worldwide. In these technology-driven times, it’s important for the federal government to do everything in its power to ensure that such historic, cultural gems as this one are able to adapt in ways that allow them to both preserve their heritage and expand their resources.”

“These federal dollars will go a long way to preserve the collections at the George Eastman House while making them accessible through the internet,” said Senator Gillibrand. “These snapshots are an important part of our history. I will continue to work with Senator Schumer to ensure that New York receives its fair share of federal funding.”

A significant portion has been eyed for higher education in the state. St. John Fisher College is on tap for $475,000. Albany's College of Nanoscience and Engineering is marked for $1 million. Binghamton University is in line to receive $2 million.

Batavia City Council members Charlie Mallow and Marianne Clattenburg were in Albany recently meeting with "key officials," according to Mallow, in the hopes of securing fundig for the city. We hope to soon hear what progress they made.

Poll: Should the city take a chance on $425k and try to land $4.5 million?

By Philip Anselmo

Yesterday, we reported that the Batavia City Council voted to go ahead and spend $425,000 on design work for some six downtown infrastructure improvement projects, including some sewer and water line upgrades. Those designs will then be sent to the state in the hopes of landing $4.5 million in economic stimulus money to fund the projects. Council members who approve of the gamble—although they oppose labeling it as a gamble—say that it's an opportunity to create jobs in Batavia and better the city's infrastructure. What do you think?

Should Batavia invest $425k to *potentially* reap $4.5 million in stimulus money?
( surveys)

Poll: The president on the stimulus

By Philip Anselmo

In the New York Times this morning, we read this of President Obama's appearance last night at a White House news conference:

The news conference was the centerpiece of an intense and highly orchestrated campaign by the administration to wrest control of the stimulus debate from Republicans and reframe it on Mr. Obama’s terms.

Did he succeed? Was it what he needed to do?

What did you think of President Obama's first news conference?
( polls)

News roundup: City could tap into stimulus package for $4.5 million

By Philip Anselmo

Batavia's City Council voted in favor of a measure last night that would use $425,000 to "design work for a half dozen" infrastructure projects, WBTA's Dan Fischer reports. That investment of $425,000 is supposed to yield $4.5 million worth of construction, on projects such as: undersized water mains, waterline break history, inoperable valves, sanitary sewer line conditions and road conditions.

Fischer explains that the $425,000 would be part of the aid received by the city from the Video Lottery Terminal Aid that was received earlier this year.

Councilman Frank Ferrando is quoted in the Daily News this morning as saying: "If we can get $4.5 million to get jobs that we have to do and can get it for an investment of $425,000, I think we have to do it,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of money out there."

No one, however, explains how any of this would work. In fact, rather than explaining it, the article today in the Daily has only this to say:

It is a gamble. Assistant Manager Sally Kuzon said there’s no guarantee of the city actually getting the money from the state Economic Facility Corp. But spending $425,000 to design those six projects is a move toward it, she said.

It's a gamble!? So the city plans to gamble with gambling money. A little irony, perhaps. Furthermore, where did the state Economic Facility Corp. come from? No one is explaining this to us, folks. All we hear is Frank Ferrando saying: 'Hey, we can turn $425,000 into $4.5 million. Poof! We're rich and we have jobs. How can we not do this?'

What everyone has failed to note is that the hoped-for millions that would magically be available if only the city spent this $425,000 are part of the proposed economic stimulus package that just last night was the subject of a national news conference.

From a letter drafted by Assistant City Manager Sally Kuzon:

I have been monitoring the progress of the President's proposed Economic Stimulus Package over the last several weeks in an attempt to place the city in a competitive position to receive funding for infrastructure improvements.

Kuzon goes on to say that while there has been "tremendous debate" over just what will happen with the stimulus, she believes that "infrastructure improvements nationwide will have a prominent position within this initiative." In other words, the city should get it on it. We should submit "shovel ready projects" to the state's Economic Facility Corp., which will adminster the federal funds allocated to New York.

She continues:

Although there is a certain amount of uncertainty as to whether or not the programs will include loans or grants or whether the program will extend to projects not currently listed on the (Intended Use Plan); it is clear that only shovel ready projects submitted to the EFC will be considered for the current or future funding rounds. Based on this premise, I am recommending several projects for Council to consider submitting tothe EFC for economic stimulus funding.

We mentioned some of those projects above. The $425,000 requested by Kuzon would be used to design the projects and submit the designs to the state so that they would be eligible to receive the funding if and when it became available. However...

It is unknown at this time if the design phase or only construction cost will be eligible for reimbursement. If for some reason the city does not receive economic stimulus funding the projects will be designed and ready for construction as funds or grants become available in the future.

In a letter drafted to the City Council on Kuzon's proposal, City Manager Jason Molino writes: "The crux of this stimulus package is to get people back to work receiving pay checks; with $4,500,000 of infrastructure improvements that goal will be acheived."

Nowhere does anyone explain how these infrastructure improvements will acheive the goal of "getting people back to work." Kuzon never once takes up this issue in her letter, and nothing from Council addresses this either. We only hear people tell us: It will happen.

Molino justifies this use of these funds in this way:

Utilizing a portion of this years (sic) VLT aid to support the project design costs is both appropriate and realistic considering the City did not budget for this one-time revenue and these costs are one-time capital costs.

Council President Charlie Mallow can be heard in an audio quote on WBTA as saying that Batavia needs to do this. Otherwise, the jobs will go to New York City. He wrote to us in an e-mail this morning:

The action council took last night was about job creation right here in Genesee County, instead of New York City. Regardless of how we feel about the spending on the national level, we owe it to our residents to secure our share of this huge stimulus package. We are all going to pay for it whether we have enough foresight to act or not on a local level.

We're waiting to hear back on how this will create jobs. See below.

Click here to download the letters by Molino and Kuzon, along with descriptions of the infrastructure projects noted in the proposal.

Councilmen Sam Barone and Bob Bialkowski were the only two members of Council who voted against the measure, saying that the state aid could be used instead to reduce the city's deficit or for "future needs."

Updated (8:28 a.m.): Council President Charlie Mallow responded to our question of how this stimulus money would create jobs.

Any aid we receive needs to be spent on projects that are shovel ready and can break ground in 180 days. That means putting people to work this summer. Local construction workers would be the first ones to work or to keep on working. Then there is the trickle down affect with people who work driving trucks, making concrete, selling building supplies, laying pipe, and even restaurants the workers, etc. We as a local government decided to do what we needed to do so that our people would feel the benefits of these make work projects that will be going on around the country. I believe this depression era type projects will boost our economy up and out of the slump we find ourselves in.
If fully funded, these projects will rebuild parts of 11 streets in the city this year. These projects are for sewer, water, road surface and sidewalks, and most call for complete reconstruction. This work will be on top of the work being done on Walnut, Oak and the $150,000 of sidewalk repair already budgeted this year. There will be a lot of activity going on this summer to rebuild the city from the ground up.

Update (8:35 a.m.): A very timely headline in the Buffalo News this morning reads: New York loses millions in revised Senate stimulus bill. From the article:

Gone entirely is funding for higher education construction, which, under the House-passed version, could have meant up to $242 million for the University at Buffalo.

Similarly, the Senate eliminated funding for school construction. The House bill would have provided $31.9 million for the district of Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo.

Senators also halved a $79 billion fiscal stabilization fund for the states. While much of the aid to local school districts remains intact, the cuts included a $25 billion fund aimed at helping governors balance their budgets.

Will we see even more funds cut from the stimulus by the time it is passed?

Stimulas package includes $27 billion for rural programs

By Howard B. Owens

The Farm Gate reports that $27 billion of Barack Obama's stimulus package is slated for rural programs.

The package includes $200 million for public safety, libraries and education; Another $500 million will be used to guarantee loans for rural housing; Rural community drinking water systems will receive $1.5 billion; $100 million will be used to spur $2 billion in loans and grants for rural businesses.

Click the link above for more details.

(via the Rural Blog)

Schumer says passage of stimulus bill will bring $1.6 billion upstate

By Philip Anselmo

The big news this morning, for sure, is the passage of the $819 billion stimulus package by the U.S. House of Representatives. We have yet to see what the Senate will do, but this thing is sure to climb through the ranks and get the presidential signature soon enough.

Throughout the day today, we'll take a look at some of the details of the package, both at the federal, the state and the local level. We will here what our representative in Congress, Chris Lee, has to say about the bill. We will get a response to Lee's vote against the package from some local Democrats. We will also look to get your opinion on this topic, so please keep an eye out for today's poll, which I hope to get up later this morning.

Let's start out with a broad look at what the stimulus package means for the nation. This is from the New York Times:

At first, it will trickle into paychecks in small, barely perceptible amounts: perhaps $12 or $13 a week for many American workers, in the form of lower tax withholding.

For the growing ranks of the unemployed, it will be more noticeable: benefit checks due to stop will keep coming, along with an extra $25 a week.

At the grocery store, a family of four on food stamps could find up to $79 more a month on their government-issued debit card.

And far bigger sums will appear, courtesy of Washington, on budget ledgers in state capitals nationwide: billions of dollars for health care, schools and public works.

Speaking of billions in health care and school aid, Sen. Chuck Schumer put out a release yesterday detailing the chunk of change due to come to upstate New York—$1.6 billion over the next two years. (Don't know about anyone else, but these numbers are always so staggering. If anyone knows of a good source that looks into how the government can come up, hocus pocus, with nearly a trillion dollars every time things start to look grim, please let me know.)

From Sen. Schumer:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will send nearly $1.6 billion over two years to Upstate New York counties in direct budget and education funding. Right now, the stimulus is expected to include $737 million in federal Medicaid relief for Upstate New York counties to help ease pressure on the overall budget, as well as a minimum of $860 million in education aid.

Western New York is due to see $70.4 million in budget relief for Medicaid and $175 million in school aid, according to Schumer's office. At the end of the release, we're told that the Senate will likely vote on the package next week in the hopes of getting the final draft to the president by President's Day, February 16.

We will get up part two of our look at the stimulus package later this morning. Please be sure to check back. In the meantime, you may want to check out the New York Times Web site, where they have put together an informative graphic that includes some audio commentary from some economists on how the nation handled past recessions.

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