The stimulus program was enacted to bridge a financial gap and to enable
Governor Patrick asked the Massachusetts Recovery and Reinvestment Office to see firsthand the impact stimulus has had, and this Citizens' Update aims to share some of the stories of Recovery Act projects and programs and their beneficiaries. What we have seen, heard and learned is that not only has stimulus
In this Citizen's Update, several programs are presented as part of a two-year look back at the impacts of the Recovery program.
Programs like the job training program, Vocational Opportunities in Communication Education (VOICE), that the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) developed to enable visually impaired students to receive hands-on training in MCB's radio studios, will have benefits long after the ARRA program is finished.
This stimulus grant not only provided carpenters, electricians, sound equipment installers and others with jobs but it left a state of the art radio studio to train blind students. It's providing great radio programming as well.
Janet LeBreck, commissioner of the MCB, pointed out that the program "offers individuals who are blind a skill set for job training and job readiness." But Jay Rufo, VOICE's instructor, said it provides its students with more. "Not only do the participants enjoy this but it is a confidence builder," he said. "It is amazing. People who couldn't get their feet in the door are now finishing a 60 minute program, editing it and producing it."
YouthBuild, a national job training youth development program, provides young adults who have had few opportunities, with the skills they need to become self sufficient. Stimulus provided YouthBuild programs in Massachusetts with $2.1 million. The impact of those dollars is direct and observable.
These youth will graduate as competent carpenters and trades people with marketable skills and confidence.
The program also received a $100,000 stimulus-funded green capacity grant to develop a green building curriculum that is the basis of the training program. These YouthBuild participants will graduate from the program with nationally recognized credentials and twenty-first century skills.
Providing people with the skills to get a job is an important part of the stimulus program. Nowhere was this more evident than in the Recovery Act's $124 million weatherization program which not only weatherized more than 7,700 homes across the state - reducing energy bills and keeping people warm - but also provided many out of work laborers with jobs. John Call, a contractor who had been in business since 1978 said that he would have had to close his business if not for the weatherization program which is keeping him and five employees hard at work.
As a result of funds coming straight from the federal government, stimulus is also directly funding the future of green energy with grants provided to private companies like Machflow, which has developed a green air conditioning technology that replaces toxic chemicals with gas as the coolant. Another great example of a private company benefitting from stimulus funds is the Premium Power Corporation, which develops low cost, grid scalable batteries that have the capacity to store and retrieve energy. Stimulus funding through state agencies has also energized the state's solar energy program with 114 new projects, producing not only electricity, but opportunities for the companies that are installing these projects.
Improving our environment has been a significant goal of the program over the last two years. Clean water and drinking water projects are great examples of this and the stimulus program helped fund 110 of these projects - like the desalination plant that is being built in Swansea. The plant, which is the first public system of its kind in the state, takes salt water from the Palmer River at low tide when salinity levels are low, removing the salt to produce high quality drinking water and discharging the residue at high tide. It is vital to this seaside town which has experienced chronic water shortages.
Brockton's new wastewater treatment plant also benefited from stimulus funds, as did upgrades to Pittsfield's plant. Pittsfield's Public Works Commissioner Bruce Collingwood said these are the first major upgrades to the plant in nearly 40 years and that the improvements could result in an average energy reduction of approximately 75 percent.
All of the work in Swansea, Brockton and Pittsfield is being done by private construction contractors in an industry that has been particularly hard hit by this recession.
Perhaps even more significantly, these stimulus-funded projects are ensuring that companies like P. Gioioso & Sons - which is reconstructing Framingham's sewer system as well as working on four other stimulus-funded construction projects - can stay in business. The 50-year old company was in danger of closing
In an effort to help individuals secure job training and employment skills, the stimulus program also provided increased funding to career centers across the state - enabling them to provide job seekers with incredible services and training at a time when they need it most. This is apparent, for example, at the Greater New Bedford Career Center. Maria Grace, the Center's manager, said the stimulus funds ensured that there was no cut off of services and no wait list -- a relief to all of its clients. She said that this gave her and her staff the ability to be creative, something that she said was crucial in this recession in which career centers are seeing clients with a much larger range of skills than was typical. "We were able to offer people programs to get certification and to learn other skills," Maria said.
These stimulus-funded programs also helped individuals like Christopher Moniz, a father of two who was laid off. Christopher, a former truck driver, got his Commercial Driver's License through the career center and is now gainfully employed.
Of course, there are those who continue to struggle and stimulus has made itself felt there as well. Across the state, stimulus has provided funds to anti poverty agencies to help these organizations in their efforts to help others. At the North Shore Community Action Program, a stimulus grant of $1.1 million is preventing homelessness and providing financial counseling and afterschool programs, among other services. At the South Shore Community Action Council, Pat Daly, the executive director, says her agency has served over 26,000 people over the past year.
"This was a great opportunity to make these programs come into fruition," Ann-Marie said.
Providing opportunities for individuals is a central theme of the stimulus program. Two years ago, for example, Krystal McClure was living in a shelter with her then one and a half year-old daughter, and had no job, no training and no prospects. She took a series of stimulus-funded courses at Action for Boston Community Development and received certification that led to a job. Krystal and her daughter are now living in a condo in Franklin Hill and she is pursuing her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education.
Over the past two years, nearly 70,000 individuals have received an ARRA-funded paycheck. These are teachers, police officers, road workers, plumbers and people employed in a wide range of social services. They are also people employed at private companies, colleges and universities, non-profit agencies and local governments.
The Recovery program runs across all of state government and all of the Commonwealth - 90% of Massachusetts cities and towns have stimulus employees living in them. These are just a few of the Recovery Act program stories that illustrate the wide breadth approach that the program has taken and the benefits that have resulted for the people of Massachusetts.