Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


May 9, 2010

Job creation: Stimulus dollars working in McDowell

While many questions have been raised in recent months — and rightfully so — about the perceived failure of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to actually create new jobs, federal stimulus dollars do appear to be accomplishing their intended purpose in rural McDowell County.

The federal stimulus influx has allowed the Council of Southern Mountains to create 12 news jobs and retain 18 additional jobs, according to agency Executive Director Randal Johnson. But perhaps of equal importance is the fact that the federal revenue has allowed the agency to more than double the number of homes that will be served through its weatherization assistance program this year.

Johnson said the program is now on target to complete 79 homes in McDowell County, which is twice the regular production quota. The federal stimulus funding also has allowed the council to purchase three new trucks, equipment and materials to provide the best possible energy saving intervention for qualified homes.

The council has utilized approximately $420,000 in federal recovery funds. The agency is working to ensure the funds are circulated back into the local economy and that every cent is spent according to guidelines and accounted for through financial standards with annualized independent audits, according to Johnson.

We applaud the Council of Southern Mountains for its ability to not only create and retain jobs through the recovery act, but also for its strict standards to assure transparency and public accountability of the federal dollars.

The council is also planning to expand child care services by supporting a licensed day care center operated by Catholic Charities; is currently providing training to 25 low-income individuals through commercial driver’s license and pharmacy technician classes; is providing assistance to children with incarcerated parents through a mentoring program; is providing training for Certified Nursing Assistants; and is supporting disabled veterans through the new McDowell County Visitors and Veterans Center in Kimball.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 hasn’t worked across the nation as we were told it would.

Funding has been spent on projects that have failed to create long-term jobs. And urgently needed projects in our region that could have greatly benefited from federal stimulus dollars — including the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway — were excluded from the initial round of federal dollars.

However, the  Council of Southern Mountains is an excellent example of how the program is working — if only on a small scale. New jobs have been created and others have been saved. Families are benefiting by having their homes weatherized. The federal dollars are being recycled back into the community, and the council is striving to ensure transparency and a strict accountability of every dollar spent.

It’s unfortunate that we aren’t hearing more of these success stories.

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