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State Says 6,110 'Stimulus' Jobs Created Or Saved This Year


October 29, 2009

HARTFORD - The state has retained or created the equivalent of 6,110 full-time jobs with the federal stimulus funding it has received since February.

That Connecticut lost 6,600 jobs in September alone speaks to the enormity of the task of stimulating the job market here.

The federal government has projected that the stimulus program would spawn 41,000 new or saved jobs in Connecticut over three years, although Matthew Fritz, a member of the governor's staff tracking the spending in Connecticut, on Wednesday told an audience as he has said several times before that he doesn't know how federal officials came up with that figure.

This time, the audience was made up of state officials who convened at the Legislative Office Building for a stimulus update.

Fritz said the 41,000 figure must include both direct and "indirect" jobs new jobs at, say, a diner that crop up because there's a big construction project down the street.

The problem with that, said Mary Anne O'Neill, Fritz's fellow Reinvestment Act coordinator on Gov. M. Jodi Rell's staff, is that the $787 billion stimulus program has shifted its focus from job-intensive "shovel-ready" projects to so-called budget stabilization. In Connecticut, that has meant stopping the bleeding in state coffers and local school budgets.

Of the $1 billion in stimulus grants the state has received so far, $610 million has been committed to local school districts. Of the 6,110 full-time equivalent jobs, 5,297 were teaching or other school positions. The majority of those jobs were existing positions that were saved.

Fritz, O'Neill and the rest of Rell's stimulus team met with state agency officials Wednesday because the first major wave of stimulus information from all the states will be posted on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act website Friday. Connecticut's departments have been embroiled in the myriad reporting requirements in recent weeks.

Fritz said it was hard to put the 6,110 figure in perspective. "I don't know if that's a big number or a small number," he said.

He said the total number of people who have drawn a stimulus-funded paycheck since early spring is slightly more than 11,000. Many of those were people in highway- and bridge-construction jobs and summer youth employment, which is why, when the state calculates the jobs over a 12-month period, the number drops almost in half.

Fritz said 750,000 people have been touched in some way by the stimulus program. That includes the state's 552,000 schoolchildren, as well as two other groups that speak as much to the tough times in Connecticut as they do to the positive effects of stimulus dollars: 60,000 people collecting expanded unemployment benefits, and 125,000 people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.

Fritz said that the pace of the stimulus program is quickening and that a large number of contract awards is expected between now and early next year. He said the state Department of Social Services' weatherization program, in which crews shore up the homes of income-eligible renters and homeowners, is just getting started. That program, funded with $64 million in stimulus money, is expected to create 660 jobs over the next two years.

In the past year, the state has lost more than 70,000 jobs.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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