Everyone in America knows that we’re currently facing a major economic challenge. The nation lost 650,000 jobs in February alone and almost 50,000 Americans are losing their homes to foreclosure each week. In Oregon, our unemployment rate is at almost 11 percent.
Working families are being hit hard by the combined lending, jobs, and mortgage crises. Now is the time to work on the solutions that will put people back to work and keep families in their homes.
In response to this dire situation, I have worked with President Obama and my colleagues in Congress to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a recovery package that will create or save 3.5 million jobs for American workers, including 44,000 jobs in Oregon. This legislation is a commitment to creating and maintaining American jobs through targeted funding of job-intensive projects and broad-based tax relief. As we invest in jobs to build infrastructure and develop renewable energy, we’re investing in the future of our economy.
Already, money has arrived in Oregon to fund valuable projects that are creating jobs. This month, the U.S. Forest Service announced that six Oregon counties – Curry, Crook, Douglas, Josephine, Jefferson and Deschutes – would receive $10 million to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and improve forest health. Counties and cities across the state have been notified that they will receive additional funds for highway improvements. And Oregon is set to receive $22 million for policing and violence prevention programs through the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program. Many more projects, including transportation, public safety, and renewable energy projects, will be announced in the coming weeks.
Also included in the Recovery Act is a $3.25 billion dollar increase in the Bonneville Power Administration’s borrowing authority that will allow BPA to complete a major transmission expansion that will take advantage of renewable energy sources and create hundreds of new jobs.
Recently, I spoke with local officials including Oregon mayors and county commissioners about the dire need to put people to work in their towns. These leaders told me that they are ready to put recovery funding to use in shovel-ready projects that will strengthen their communities.
To assist Oregonians in understanding which projects are eligible for funding and how this recovery plan will benefit our state, Senator Wyden and I have put together an Oregon Resource Guide to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The guide includes information on many federal programs and funding opportunities available to individuals, communities and businesses in Oregon through the economic recovery package. You can access the guide on my web site at merkley.senate.gov.
From the Recovery Act, Oregon will receive $1.62 billion in direct aid and over $800 million in additional Medicaid assistance over the next two years. In addition, the State, Oregon localities, and Oregon’s private sector will compete for millions of dollars in competitive grants. We want to get this information to those who need it so these funds can begin helping Oregonians as quickly as possible.
For more information about how recovery funding will be used in Oregon, please visit Governor Kulongoski’s economic recovery web site at recovery.oregon.gov. The governor has created an Economic Recovery Executive Team, which will coordinate and track the funding from the Recovery Act that comes to Oregon. It’s important that throughout this process we ensure that funds are being used wisely for programs that are not only shovel-ready, but shovel-worthy.
The Recovery Act is our first step in putting America’s economy back on track, but there’s still more work to be done. In the coming weeks, I will fight to provide assistance to families facing foreclosure and restore oversight and accountability to our Wall Street and our financial system to ensure that we don’t repeat the mistakes that got us into this mess.
I invite you to contact my office with any questions about how the Recovery Act will benefit Oregon. Please call my office at (503) 326-3386 or by e-mail at merkley.senate.gov.