I am pleased to report further progress toward economic recovery this quarter. Since January, the number of full-time jobs supported by the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) increased over 30 percent. The three major credit rating agencies have reaffirmed our "AA" bond rating and stable financial outlook. And just last month we saw our second straight month of job growth and a decrease in the unemployment rate.
In addition to collecting the number of full-time ARRA jobs, the Massachusetts Recovery and Reinvestment Office also tracks the total number of actual individuals working on ARRA funded projects or programs each quarter. Over 30,000 individuals have collected an ARRA funded paycheck since the Recovery Act began in February of 2009.
But recovery is not just about numbers. Over the past few months, I have traveled throughout the Commonwealth to see firsthand the impact ARRA has made on ordinary citizens. At each of my stops, I saw people working together to get through these tough economic times. Confidence-cautious but certain-is on the rise. People are getting back to work, and we can continue looking toward a hopeful future. Our approach to recovery is working.
We are making lasting investments for today and tomorrow. We are investing in teachers and students, seniors and youth, parents and children. We are investing in construction workers and commuters, police officers and firefighters, doctors and patients. We are committed to making decisions that will deliver economic benefits to the Commonwealth now and in the future.
We have made economic recovery personal, and while the work goes on, we are steadily beginning to see the results.
I have seen the results of stimulus firsthand in Bedford, where I met Dennis Condo, a weatherization contractor who nearly lost his job, but now has steady work thanks to an ARRA-funded boost in home weatherization projects.
I have seen the results in Revere, where I met Meg English and Wadson Michel, who teach at an English literacy program in Everett buoyed by stimulus funds. "The language helps people become active members of the community," they told me.
I have seen the results in Charlestown, where Rahul Yarala, Derek Berry, and Robert Priore work for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center's wind blade testing facility. This facility, still under construction, is creating jobs for construction workers today. Upon completion, the facility will be the largest of its kind, affirming our commitment to clean energy and employing people in Massachusetts for years to come.
I have seen the results in Springfield, where I met Yvette Jackson, Carmen Oseviado, and Tracy D'Agostino, who were all hired by the Springfield Career Center with stimulus funds. ARRA dollars have kept them at work, and allowed them to help countless others find jobs themselves.
And I have seen the results in Allston, where I met Derek Lilly, a man proud to buy his son a proper pair of sneakers-a purchase made possible because a stimulus funded career development program at Action for Boston Community Development helped him secure a job in Roxbury.
These people and thousands of others like them remind us that stimulus is truly personal. The Recovery Act is about putting people-real people-back to work. Still, the impact of stimulus runs deeper than jobs, to the individuals and families who rely on and benefit from each of our investments in infrastructure and services that ARRA supports.
Over the past quarter, with ARRA support, we have been able to ensure that our education programs are both of the highest quality and accessible to as many students as possible.
- The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) allocated ARRA education funding to provide children and their families with access to vouchers for preschool services and more efficient access to programs provided by early education centers and family child care systems.
- School and district administrators invested ARRA education funds, including Title I and IDEA funds, to support administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, and staff members while also providing targeted instructional support to students. This funding supported over 2,700 full-time educators this quarter alone, a 60 percent increase over the previous quarter.
- State and community colleges and the University of Massachusetts campuses used ARRA funds to maintain the fiscal stability of the higher education system and ensure that students had access to high-quality educational opportunities. This funding supported over 1,500 full-time jobs at these public institutions of higher learning over the past quarter.
We are also continuing our investments in transportation infrastructure to make improvements to our roads, bridges, and transit systems that will promote long-term economic growth. The Commonwealth obligated all $438 million of our ARRA highway funding this past February, a full month ahead of the federal deadline. We have put all projects out to bid, and expect construction to accelerate this spring and summer.
- The Commonwealth can expect a construction boom this spring as work on all 84 highway projects gets underway. Over 5,000 people have already worked on stimulus-funded road and bridge projects across Massachusetts.
- At the MBTA, work is underway on $274 million worth of projects. Work will begin in May on the Fitchburg Double-Track project, worth $40 million. Work also begins this summer on the MBTA's Renewable Wind Energy Project, a $2.5 million installation of two wind energy turbines at commuter rail facilities in Kingston and Bridgewater.
- The MBTA has invested over $18 million in new hybrid buses on some of its most popular routes.
With ARRA funds we have also made investments in our workforce development programs, helping unemployed Massachusetts residents hone their job search skills and train for new opportunities.
- Since February 2009, Recovery funds have made it possible for the Commonwealth's 37 One-Stop Career Centers to provide services to over 85,000 individuals. These services include job counseling, job search assistance, skill assessment, and intensive case management. Education and training activities are also available for eligible individuals. Throughout ARRA's lifespan, Massachusetts will have invested over $64 million in Recovery funds for grants to the 16 workforce regions across the Commonwealth.
- Education and training activities are also available. Throughout ARRA's lifespan, Massachusetts will have invested over $64 million in Recovery funds for grants to the 16 workforce regions across the Commonwealth.
- In addition to the almost 7,000 low-income youth served by the ARRA Workforce Investment Act Summer Youth Program, ARRA funding has supported work and learning opportunities since this past fall for over 950 youth in 32 cities and towns in the Commonwealth, where low-income youth are especially in need of access to job opportunities.
- The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development estimates that a total of $500 million will be paid to Massachusetts claimants from the ARRA-funded $25 per week increase in unemployment benefit payments. Since February 2009, nearly 600,000 individuals have benefited from this increase. The Recovery Act has also extended the qualifying time for the existing federal unemployment insurance extensions allowing over 222,000 individuals to collect federal extended benefits in 2009 and 2010 who would have not otherwise qualified.
ARRA housing grants continue to support investments in our communities, including low-income housing projects, homelessness prevention, community services, and weatherization.
- Since January, several ARRA-funded low-income housing tax credit projects have broken ground. These projects constitute a nearly $18.5 million investment that has already created or retained 99 full-time jobs and will produce 103 housing units. Seven others are currently in construction. As the construction season gets into full swing, I expect this number to grow.
- The ARRA-funded Community Services Block Grant program served 32,000 low-income residents in the last quarter, providing services that include employment and training, literacy and financial literacy classes, and housing assistance.
- This past quarter also saw the launch of the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program. Seventeen non-profit agencies have received funding to help strengthen the state's shelter system. These agencies will focus on preventing people from needing to enter homeless shelters, providing services to re-house those living in shelters, and reducing the number of families sheltered in hotels and motels. So far, with the help of ARRA funds, the number of families in hotels/motels has decreased by 14 percent.
- To date, over 5,600 low-income individuals have received weatherization services through ARRA. Recovery Act funding will weatherize approximately 15,000 homes in addition to the 2,000 per year that have typically been weatherized with state funds. Families receiving weatherization services will save, on average, nearly $600 per year on their heating bills.
Federal stimulus grants are also helping Massachusetts maintain and improve the health and well-being of its residents, particularly the young, elderly, and disabled. Moreover, increases in the Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP), have enabled the state to maintain MassHealth benefits to over 1.2 million recipients. Other health and human services grants include:
- Over 150,000 children in Massachusetts who suffer from asthma will benefit from a new ARRA-funded study. A two-year award to the Department of Public Health from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to support the Reduction in Ethnic/Racial Asthma Disparities in Youth (READY) study will be conducted at two asthma clinics in Boston and Springfield.
- ARRA funds for Senior Community Service Employment provide on-the job training for unemployed, economically disadvantaged individuals, age 55 and over. The training programs provide older workers with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to attain employment in today's job market.
- Increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) benefits through ARRA have helped approximately 392,000 families (over 726,000 individuals). The Department of Transitional Assistance administers more than $90 million in SNAP benefits each month.
ARRA is supporting our efforts to remain a national leader in green energy. We are increasing renewable energy usage, including water treatment plants and other public buildings, as well as by providing rebates for commercial solar installations. We aggressively continued this in the last quarter. Examples include:
- 4.1 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity-enough to power the equivalent of over 650 homes in the Commonwealth-will be installed at 12 drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities under the State Revolving Fund (SRF)-the largest solar procurement in the Commonwealth's history. One hundred Clean Water and Drinking Water Treatment facility projects-which include sewage treatment plans, water storage tanks, and other water systems-are now under contract, with construction beginning this spring. Our administration has leveraged ARRA funding to finance over $800 million in construction contracts, the highest of any state in the country. Based on industry estimates, this level of spending will create or preserve up to 4,000 jobs.
- Grants totaling $16.25 million were awarded to 11 projects that will demonstrate methods for achieving dramatic improvements in building energy performance through energy efficiency retrofits and alternatives to fossil-fuel-based heat.
- Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) conducted two $4 million rounds of the Commonwealth Solar Stimulus rebate program. MassCEC made 33 awards for 2.6 MW of solar capacity in Round 1, and 56 awards for 4 MW of solar capacity in Round 2. These awards will fund solar installations at private companies and public schools.
- In the Solar at State Facilities program, $8.7 million will support projects representing 3.8 MW of additional solar capacity.
Federal funds have helped maintain our public safety personnel, ensuring the safety of our communities by helping cities and towns to retain police officers and firefighters:
- Massachusetts remains the only state in the country to use its discretion with State Fiscal Stabilization Funding to award $20 million to 85 fire departments to prevent layoffs and staffing reductions.
- $6.1 million in Byrne Justice Assistance Grants provided funding to 35 municipal police departments, to hire, retain, or support 279 police officers.
These programs and others show the real impact stimulus is making here in Massachusetts. We are investing in people-jobs, education, health care, and safety. We are putting people back to work today and investing for the needs and the economy of tomorrow. The recovery is steadily progressing, and we are continuing to ensure Massachusetts comes out of the recession faster than the rest of the country and stronger than ever.