Road to economic recovery: How stimulus funds make way to our communities
On Feb. 17, President Obama signed the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act.
The funds are to be used not to bail out banks and brokerage firms, but to put people to work and build our infrastructure.
At a time when the unemployment rate in our communities reaches double digits, you might be wondering: When will I see the money at work in my town?
The answer is as soon as possible.
On Feb. 23, Gov. Jim Doyle established the Wisconsin Office of Recovery & Reinvestment as a clearinghouse for information on how businesses, organizations and individuals can apply for stimulus funds.
The office is staffed by personnel from other state agencies and is headed by a private-sector chief executive officer, who is volunteering his time.
Stimulus money will come to the state and to our communities through existing programs—132 different programs—and through new competitive grants.
The first projects to be approved for stimulus money are transportation projects that have been in the pipeline for state funding.
In my district, a 4-mile stretch of state Highway 11 from the Janesville Bypass westward will be repaved with concrete. That was part of a bill the Legislature approved in February.
Another project—the Blackhawk Creek Bridge on County A in Harmony Township—has just been approved by the Joint Finance Committee.
There is a lot of interest in getting stimulus funding for various projects in my district, which is most of Rock County and the Whitewater area. I have been working with several groups and individuals to guide them through the process.
The Office of Recovery & Reinvestment (ORR) Web site, www.recovery.wisconsin.gov, offers a search function where people can find the program their project fits into and submit an application to the appropriate state agency.
A school district wanting to do a building project, for example, would click on the “education” link and find two bond programs that can fund construction. There is also contact information to get more information.
The ORR Web site is not complete; the state is still waiting for federal guidelines on new initiatives in the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act.
For example, the U.S. Department of Energy will make loans and grants available, on a competitive basis, to manufacturers of advanced lithium ion batteries and hybrid electric systems to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
Each state agency will also create a “recovery and reinvestment” section for their Web sites. The Public Service Commission, for example, will have a page devoted to extending broadband to areas of the state where high-speed Internet service is not available.
The Office of Energy Independence will post information on the types of energy efficiency improvements that families and businesses can make to qualify for income tax credits.
The ORR Web site will be updated as new information comes along. Deadlines for applications will be listed as that information becomes available.
Sen. Judy Robson, D-Beloit, represents Wisconsin’s 15th Senate District. She can be reached at 1-800-334-1468, (608) 266-2253, or by e-mail at sen.robson@legis.Wisconsin.gov.