Vol. 4   No. 4
February 19, 2009
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                      Opportunities now!
 The past 31 days have been flying by at such a dizzying pace. It was just one month ago that President Barack
Obama was inaugurated in Washington, D.C. on January 20. On January 21, Obama got to work on getting his
stimulus package passed by Congress and getting economic recover efforts kick-started throughout America. When
the dust finally settled, Obama had gotten his $787 billion stimulus package, the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act, through Congress with most of its essential components intact and with few Republican votes.
Just this past Tuesday, Obama signed the bill into law in Denver, Co., the first major bill signed by an African
American president.
 Things will be hopping pretty quickly now. By the end of February, the involved federal departments have to
make specific commitments of stimulus funds to the states, And by the end of June, the states have to have the
funds committed to specific projects and contractors. There are times when it takes Congress and the President a
year to pass the federal budget. Remember back in the 1990s when President Clinton and the Republican
Congress had a showdown over spending authorizations to keep the government going? If my memory serves me
correctly, it took two showdowns before the budget was finally passed. And now here in a matter of five months,
Congress and the President will have proposed, debated, negotiated and agreed on the largest spending bill in U.
S. history and many of the projects will have already begun.
 There is a lot of opportunity in the ARRA. In Wisconsin alone, almost $300 million in highway projects will be
starting up this summer in addition to the projects that the Wis. Dept. of Transportation had already planned to
implement this summer. The Wis. Division of Energy Services is receiving an additional $72 million per year for
home weatherization. That’s enough money for over 10,000 homes to get weatherized each year. And there are
probably many other projects that will get underway that no one knows about yet.
 Since the state of Wisconsin is required to maintain its current efforts — meaning that they can’t use the stimulus
funds to replace state tax revenues — while using the stimulus funds to fund additional projects, more than likely
we will see an expansion of the capacity of the road building and weatherization sectors to meet the increased
demand of the state for people to complete its projects. That’s the good news because many people will retain
their jobs while others will be able to take advantage of the new jobs being created. That’s the good news.
 Now the downside. When President Obama was selling his stimulus package to Congress and the American
people, he stated that 3-4 million jobs would be created or saved meaning that through the funding, teachers or
government workers or construction workers or others directly affected by the stimulus would retain their
employment. That is a good thing. But the bad news is that officially there were 11.6 million unemployed in the
United States. That doesn’t count millions more who were underemployed — meaning they want to work full time,
but can only find part time work — or many who are discouraged from even looking for work. This means, at best,
there are at three unemployed people for every position that is going to be created or saved through the stimulus.
And if a lot of the jobs being counted are those that will be saved, the ratio of unemployed to jobs created goes
up dramatically.
 Not everyone is going to feel an immediate impact from this stimulus bill. Businesses and individuals can’t sit
around waiting to be asked to the stimulus prom. People have to be proactive and search for business
opportunities with businesses who might secure contract in the infrastructure, energy and other fields. Individuals
need to be contacting union halls and training agencies to get in line to go to work or secure the training they
need to get work. Funds will be coming to the Workforce Development Board for employment and training
programs. And training programs like the YWCA’s TrANS Program will be training people for entry level positions
in the road construction fields and other employment sectors. Don’t wait, act now or you will be left behind
because the stimulus train is leaving the station and it is on a high speed rail.