February 10, 2009

Bingaman & Udall: Bill Would Direct at Least $953 Million into New Mexico's Economy

 

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall today said there is at least $953 million for New Mexico in the Senate's version of the economic recovery package, which will be used to create good jobs in the state. The measure passed today 61-37, and must now be finalized with the version the House of Representatives passed.

 

"Nearly 600,000 Americans lost their jobs in January, offering further evidence that we are facing the most serious economic crisis in decades. We need to inject capital into the economy to create jobs and get people back to work," Bingaman said. "This bill will help New Mexico build roads, invest in drinking water projects and create incentives to expand the manufacture of renewable energy technology. We need to get an economic recovery package to the president right away."

 

"Today, we are facing the most severe economic crisis in generations with 600,000 jobs being lost last month alone," said Udall. "Economists from across the political spectrum are certain that the only way to prevent a deepening recession is to infuse our economy with capital now. While this is not the exact legislation I would have written, it is an important step to stabilizing our economy with substantial investments in long-term priorities like infrastructure and renewable energy while also cutting taxes. I am also proud that it includes my amendment to expand tax incentives to employers who hire post-9/11 veterans who have been discharged from the Armed Forces."

 

As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Bingaman was able to include in the bill a tax credit that will allow companies, such as Schott, Advent Solar, Emcore and Nanopore, to write off 30 percent of the cost of investing in facilities to manufacture renewable energy technologies, like solar panels. He also was able to include a proposal to stimulate the demand for municipal bonds - and thus enable communities to obtain the financing they need to make infrastructure improvements - by allowing banks to acquire additional tax-exempt debt of up to $30 million, up from $10 million. This increase will make it possible for states and municipalities to borrow for school and road construction projects at a lower-interest rate at a time when capital is tight.

 

Udall won unanimous support for an amendment he wrote to expand tax incentives to employers who hire veterans who have served since September 2001. The initiative will apply to veterans who are discharged from the Armed Services from September 2001 through December 2010, and includes veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Bureau of Labor Statistic reports that of those veterans who served in our military since September 2001, 6.1 percent were unemployed and the economy has only worsened. At the same time, the jobless rate for veterans of all eras combined was 3.8 percent in 2007.

 

Below is list of the categories and levels of funding New Mexico would stand to receive under the Senate's version of the recovery package:
New Mexico's Infrastructure and Science

In order to rebuild our weakening economy, these investments in our physical and cyber infrastructure will put New Mexicans immediately to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, and will also enable the creation of a stronger and more efficient infrastructure for the 21st century economy.

 

* $19.7 million through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to address the backlog of drinking water infrastructure needs
* $19.5 million through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to address the backlog of clean water infrastructure needs
* $245.7 million in Highway Funding to be used on activities eligible under the Federal-aid Highway Program's Surface Transportation Program and could also include rail and port infrastructure activities at the discretion of the states
* $34.9 million in Transit Formula Funding for investments in mass transit
* $9.4 million through the Public Housing Capital Fund to enable local public housing agencies to address a national $32 billion backlog in capital needs - especially those improving energy efficiency in aging developments - in this critical element of the nation's affordable housing infrastructure
* $14.1 million in HOME Funding to enable state and local government, in partnership with community-based organizations, to acquire, construct, and rehabilitate affordable housing and provide rental assistance to poor families
* $8.6 million through the Homelessness Prevention Fund to be used for prevention activities, which include: short or medium-term rental assistance, first and last month's rental payment, or utility payments. As such, most of this funding will go directly into the economy of local communities, as the funds will be used to pay housing and other associated costs in the private market

Education and Training in New Mexico

In order to compete in the 21st Century, we must have a well-educated workforce, capable of adapting to an ever-changing economic environment. Investing in education now will ensure that the next generation of New Mexico's workers is ready and able to meet the challenge of global competition. In the near-term, millions of workers have seen their jobs disappear, and find themselves unable to match their skill sets with existing opportunities. Providing job training in new and expanding fields will help to lower the unemployment rate and help today's workers better compete against foreign competition.

 

* $206.4 million through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund to local school districts and public colleges and universities in addition to incentive grants as a reward for meeting key education performance measures and additional funding for other high-priority needs such as public safety and other critical services, which may include education
* $105.5 million for Special Education Part B State Grants to help improve educational outcomes for individuals with disabilities, raising the federal contribution to nearly 40 percent, the level established when the law was authorized more than 30 years ago
* $7.8 million in education technology funds to purchase up-to-date computers and software and provide professional development to ensure the technology is used effectively in the classroom
* $101.3 million for Title I Education for the Disadvantaged to help close the achievement gap and enable disadvantaged students to reach their potential
* $3.3 million in State Employment Service Grants to match unemployed individuals to job openings through state employment service agencies and allow New Mexico to provide customized reemployment services
* $2.8 million in Dislocated Workers State Grants, particularly for grants that support immediate strategies for regions and communities to meet their need for skilled workers, as well as longer-term plans to build targeted industry clusters with better training and a more productive workforce
* $2.7 million for Department of Labor's Adult State Grants
* $6.3 million for Department of Labor's Youth State Grants
* $3.9 million for Vocational Rehabilitation to help individuals with disabilities prepare for and sustain gainful employment

New Mexico's Energy

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 would provide investments in areas critical to the development of clean, efficient, American energy, including modernizing energy transmission, research and development of renewable energy technologies, and modernizing and upgrading government buildings and vehicles.

 

* $5.1 million through the State Energy Program
* $17.9 million through the Weatherization Assistance Program

 

Indian Country Investments

According to Senator Byron Dorgan, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, "Nowhere in this nation are jobs and construction improvements more needed than on American Indian reservations. Tribal communities suffer an average unemployment rate of 50% and have faced longstanding infrastructure needs."

 

To address these concerns, the Senate Committees on Finance and Appropriations, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, have included approximately $2.9 billion in national funding to create jobs, improve infrastructure, and generally improve the quality of life of Native Americans in New Mexico:

 

* Improving Indian Health Service and Indian Health Facilities ($545 million). Of this amount, $50 million would go to fund contract health care services, $85 million to improve health information technology, and $20 million for health care equipment. The remaining funding would be dedicated to building new and repairing Indian health hospitals, clinics and sanitation and water facilities
* Improving Access to Health Care by prohibiting co-payments for Medicaid recipients, exempting some Indian property from inclusion in resource determinations for Medicaid and CHIP, and making it easier for these populations to receive Medicaid benefits through Medicaid-managed care organizations ($25 million)
* Strengthening Indian Education. $167 million would be dedicated to tribal and Bureau of Indian Education school construction, repairs, and modernizations
* Addressing Tribal Public Safety and Justice. $325 million in funding would work to improve tribal justice systems and fight high violent crime rates in Indian Country. $275 million in funding would be dedicated to building new and improving existing detention centers in Indian Country. The Interior Department recently reported unmet needs for Indian jails of $8 billion. In addition, $25 million would help strengthen tribal court systems, and $25 million would go to improve drug and alcohol treatment in Indian Country
* Improving Tribal Housing. $510 million would be dedicated to block and competitive grants administered through the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act to construct and rehabilitate reservation homes and other authorized projects. An additional $25 million would go to the housing improvement program administered by the BIA
* Improving Indian Reservation Roads. $486 million would be allocated to improving tribal and BIA roads, bridges, and reservation transit systems. Of this amount, $320 would go the Indian Reservation Roads program within the Department of Transportation. An additional $16.8 million would go to improve tribal transit. And $150 million would go to improve tribal and BIA roads through the Department of the Interior
* Improving drinking water and water service systems on reservations ($459 million). Included in this amount is $274 million for Bureau of Reclamation Indian water projects. $65 million for tribal irrigation and dams improvements. And tribal governments would also receive approximately $120 million through a set-aside in the Safe Drinking and Clean Water Revolving Funds
* Other Improvements:

o Indian Reservation Food Distribution (USDA) - $5 million to support the approximately 86,000 low-income Native Americans who receive this monthly benefits in lieu of SNAP (food stamps) benefits

o BIA major facilities improvement and repair - $115 million would go to repair existing federal buildings that are most in need of improvements

o BIA workforce training - $20 million would help put to work and train unemployed persons on Indian lands

o BIA Indian Loan Guarantee Program - $10 million would be used by the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development to issue guaranteed loans to tribal businesses and improve economic development on Indian lands

o Tribal Community Development Financial Institutions (Treasury) - $20 million help build financial institutions in Indian Country

o Tribal Energy Efficiency Block Grants (set-aside) - $42 million would go to fund tribal energy projects


Protecting the Vulnerable in New Mexico

The current economic crisis has affected all New Mexicans, but none more so than the most vulnerable among us. The spending proposed here will serve to lessen the blow of the current recession, providing immediate relief for children, the poor, and others who may find themselves struggling to put food on the table or a roof over their head. It will also address the urgent need to provide safe and secure places to live, even in neighborhoods that are struggling with high unemployment and surging foreclosure rates.

 

* $654,349 for National School Lunch Program Equipment Assistance
* $670,759 through the Emergency Food Assistance Program
* $99.5 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (formerly Food Stamps)
* $525,365 for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, which provides grants to nonprofit and faith-based organizations at the local level to supplement their programs for emergency food and shelter to provide for the immediate needs of the homeless
* $17.8 million in Child Care and Development Block Grants to provide quality child care services for in low-income families who increasingly are unable to afford the high cost of day care