Your tax dollars hard at work, for once

Jill Sigal Contributor
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Each day when I drive home and pass a big green sign that says—Project Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—I wonder how much of taxpayer dollars are being spent on signs like these across the country versus how much is being spent on paving the roads and the other projects funded by the Recovery Act, better known as the stimulus package. Many questions are still being asked about the Recovery Act. Is it really creating as many jobs as promised? What is the cost to the taxpayer for each job created? Would the economy have worsened without the stimulus package or was the stimulus package what our nation’s economy needed? The American taxpayer deserves to know the answers to these questions.

I have been on the Recovery Act website which was established so that taxpayers can track where the money is being spent and how many jobs are being created. I have looked at projects from Maine to California and many of these projects seem worthwhile. Others make you wonder.

There is one program that received stimulus funding that I believe deserves to be highlighted for succeeding in accomplishing the objective of the Recovery Act—creating jobs. The Environmental Management (EM) clean up program at the Department of Energy received $6 billion in stimulus funding. The EM mission is to clean up 50 years of contamination from nuclear weapons production. The EM sites are highly contaminated and pose a threat to human health and the environment. The EM program is using the stimulus funding to accelerate the cleanup at 18 sites across the country.

Let’s look at the numbers. Through March 2010, over 20,000 workers have been employed on EM stimulus projects. This includes over 5,600 prime contractors, over 4,300 subcontractors and over 10,000 others including part-time and temporary workers and vendors. In addition, small businesses, the heart of our nation’s workforce, have been awarded over $1.2 billion of the EM stimulus funding. To make things even better, the stimulus funding has reduced the overall life cycle cost of the EM program by $7 billion through cost savings and cost avoidance.

Job creation, small-business awards, reduced life cycle costs and accelerated protection of human health and the environment—this is one stimulus program that deserves a pat on the back for accomplishing the objective of the Recovery Act and so much more.

Ms. Sigal is President of Jill Sigal Associates a consulting firm specializing in policy development, strategic planning, government relations, communications and stakeholder and community outreach.