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After a day in the nation’s capital, Elkhart, Ind., Mayor Dick Moore said he’s confident the city will not be forgotten as a federal economic stimulus plan takes shape in the coming weeks.
“I do believe that help is on the way,” Moore said at a Monday (Jan. 26) press conference.
As reported by the Elkhart Truth, Moore and two members of his administration traveled to Washington last week, and met with U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, and staff of U.S. Senators Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar.
The topic? Moore stressed Elkhart’s need for economic recovery dollars, but said he also learned about a wide variety of other funding available to the city through President Barack Obama’s estimated $825 billion stimulus plan.
Moore carried with him a list of 18 “shovel-ready” public works projects, totaling $92.4 million and creating an estimated 2,300 jobs — examples of what Elkhart would do with recovery money, he said.
But the most surprising thing, city officials said, was what they learned about additional money the city could receive through the stimulus bill.
“We went in thinking infrastructure-only,” said city engineer Mike Machlan, who traveled with Moore to Washington. “And we were surprised there were several other funding sources available.”
As it exists now, the recovery plan would aid local governments with community development, transportation and housing projects, Moore said. It could help public buildings become more energy-efficient and reduce carbon emissions, or pay to put more police officers on the streets.
The Truth reported that the legislation will likely be voted in the House on Wednesday, Donnelly said, and the final bill should be signed by mid-February.
Some of that money will come directly to the city without competition, Moore said, through a formula system based on population and other factors. Other funding could be obtained through an application process, he said, or in conjunction with regional government organizations or state agencies.
Just how much money the region receives could depend on how it’s passed out, Donnelly said. Unlike federal earmarks, which go through individual members of Congress, he said, this money is likely to go through state government.
That could hurt the local cause, since the congressional offices are the ones “on the ground,” and know where funds are needed the most.
“The projects are worthy projects that make sense, and will improve Elkhart,” the Second District congressman said. “The way funds are distributed will determine how much we get – one big chunk or money specifically allocated.”
Indiana’s relatively sound financial status could be a negative, as well, Donnelly said. Some states are pushing to use stimulus cash to shore up troubled unemployment, Medicaid or teacher’s salary funds, which could overshadow areas with ready-to-go infrastructure work.
“I don’t think the stimulus should be a plan that simply fulfills obligations that the states should be taking care of,” he said. “The main point of the stimulus is job creation through infrastructure and a tax cut for working families.”
To get a big piece of the recovery pie, Moore said the city can’t expect to sit back and wait for the money. Machlan will head a group that will work closely with the city’s Washington lobbyist throughout the new grant process, Moore said.