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Johnson: Stimulus is already helping local communities

Since President Obama signed the economic recovery legislation just weeks ago, I have watched the legislation begin to improve our cities and towns and put people back to work. Already, the bill is having a positive impact in our local communities and is improving everything from infrastructure to education and health care.

Voting in support of a package this size is never easy, and I remain concerned about the overall cost of the bill. It is clear, though, that we are facing the worst economic downturn in generations, and I believe we must act to prevent a deep recession from getting even deeper. The bill contains no earmarks.

The purpose of this bill is to help create new jobs and stimulate the economy. Across South Dakota, we are starting to see the direct result of the legislation. In Rapid City, the Community Health Center has received more than $500,000 to expand employment opportunities and provide health care to families during these particularly tough times.

From De Smet and Pierre to Watertown and Sioux Falls, 26 local housing commissions have already received the dollars necessary to improve and invest in our communities. The Madison Housing and Redevelopment Commission has received $17,000 to repair the Lakeview Tower, which will create jobs and improve conditions for local residents. If it weren’t for the stimulus, communities like Madison would be hard pressed to find the funding they need to make these important upgrades.

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In Brown County, roads are getting repaired and projects once thought to be on the back burner are now moving forward. More than a dozen counties will receive federal dollars to repair our highways, pave our roads and improve streets in our towns.

The resources in the stimulus will help the state in funding our schools and hopefully avoiding painful budget cuts. The increase in aid comes as welcome news to many educators, who have watched budgets get tighter and tighter as the economy slowed.

Indian country is also seeing the benefits of congressional action. The stimulus provides additional funds to continue important programs like the Indian Housing Block Grant and Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant programs, which I have fought for years to adequately fund.

The painful reality is that our economy is in a tailspin; with thousands more losing jobs every month. As we slide deeper and deeper into this recession, members of both parties understood that we could not afford to let our economy continue to fall. Instead, we crafted a bill that the Congressional Budget Office estimates may create or save 900,000 to 2.4 million jobs this year and as many as an additional 3.9 million jobs in 2010.

Our economy is hurting, and I am proud to have worked to pass this package and provide our state with the dramatic kick start our local economy needs. In the coming weeks, the resources in this bill will continue to flow to cities and towns and help ease the pain caused by the highest unemployment levels our state has seen in 20 years.