By Mary Beth Sheridan and Michael Laris
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 13, 2009
The economic stimulus bill facing key votes in Congress would provide enough money to modernize more than 300 schools in the District, Maryland and Virginia and would boost unemployment benefits to more than half a million people in those jurisdictions hurt by the recession, according to White House projections released yesterday.
The nearly $790 billion measure is expected to provide a windfall for road repairs, energy projects, education and hospitals. Information began to trickle out yesterday about its impact on the Washington area as officials await the release of additional details.
The region would benefit not only from new education, transportation, Medicaid and other funds provided to all states, but also from an extra jolt of money for repairing government buildings and helping federal institutions, officials said.
The Obama administration predicted that the bill would create or save 66,000 jobs in the next two years in Maryland, 12,000 in the District and 93,000 in Virginia. Some economists said the administration's figures appeared too high, however, and others cautioned that it was difficult to predict exactly how the stimulus package would translate into jobs.
"The numbers, as we understand them, are very positive for Maryland," said Shaun Adamec, a spokesman for Gov. Martin O'Malley (D). "There appears to be a good variety of funds that will provide flexibility to shore up shortfalls in our general fund and provide strategic investments in transportation and education."
Indeed, Maryland is expected to receive $420 million to fix highways and bridges, $240 million to improve public transit, $27 million for drinking water projects and $96 million for wastewater projects, according to figures from the Senate Appropriations Committee provided by the office of Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.).
Maryland will get about $814 million to curb teacher layoffs and other education cutbacks, according to calculations provided yesterday by Mikulski's office.
O'Malley submitted a budget proposal to the General Assembly last month that sought to close a $2 billion shortfall in the state's $14 billion general fund through cost-saving measures that include freezing many agency budgets and laying off 700 state workers. Aides said the governor will present a supplemental budget in coming weeks that accounts for the funds from the stimulus package. It is too early to know which cuts will be avoided, however.
The stimulus bill would generate enough money to modernize at least 138 schools in Maryland and would provide an additional $100 a month in unemployment insurance benefits to 242,000 people who have lost their jobs in this recession, the White House said.
In the District, Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi said he hadn't seen the final numbers in the House-Senate compromise reached on the legislation.
"However, we know that the stimulus package will likely provide significant budget relief to the District and will be of great assistance to our residents and many of our businesses and institutions," he said.
The District is facing a $456 million hole in its budget for fiscal 2010. It would receive enough stimulus funds to modernize at least 34 schools, and about 36,000 District residents who have recently lost jobs would see a $100 bump in their monthly unemployment checks, the White House said.
Top Virginia officials were scurrying yesterday to figure out how the plan would translate into dollars in their communities.
"We don't know the specifics," said Gordon Hickey, spokesman for Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D). "We don't know any of the strings, basically. We don't know the rules" on spending the money.
Virginia has a budget shortfall of at least $2.9 billion, and Hickey said the state has $3 billion worth of transportation projects that have been put on hold "because we don't have the money." More than $1 billion worth of transportation projects are ready to go within 90 days, he said.
The stimulus bill would provide enough funds to refurbish at least 165 schools in Virginia and would increase unemployment benefits to 247,000 people laid off during the recession, officials said.
Numerous federal institutions in the D.C. area also would get money from the package, officials said.
For example, the bill provides $580 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, including $90 million for construction at its Gaithersburg headquarters, Mikulski's office said.
The legislation would also award $1 billion to NASA. It was not clear exactly how that would be spent, but the agency has a major facility, the Goddard Space Flight Center, in Prince George's County.
Also, $10 billion dollars would go to the National Institutes of Health. Spokesman John Burklow said that, if the money is approved, some would be spent on repairs and construction at the Bethesda campus. However, "the vast majority of the dollars will go out among the more than 3,000 research institutions around the country" that work with NIH, he said.
The bill would set aside billions for fixing up federal buildings across the country and making them energy-efficient.
"We'll finally catch some advantage out of being a federal city. You have a disproportionate number of federal buildings here, and they're among the oldest" in the country, said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
Norton is seeking to have the bill create apprenticeships for women and minorities to become skilled construction workers.
Staff writers John Wagner and David Nakamura contributed to this report.