Schweitzer says stimulus put 1,000 to work so far

2009-08-19T16:15:00Z Schweitzer says stimulus put 1,000 to work so farGazette News Service The Billings Gazette
August 19, 2009 4:15 pm  • 

HELENA-Federal stimulus money has created about 1,000 jobs in Montana so far, with many more yet to come, Gov. Brian Schweitzer said Wednesday.

State estimates last winter were that Montana would be able to create or save 11,000 jobs with this stimulus money.

Many more Montanans will be working in the coming months because of the infusion of federal money, Schweitzer said, but he added that he couldn't estimate how many yet.

"A lot of the money isn't on the ground yet," Schweitzer said in a national press conference organized by the Democratic National Committee to tout what it called the success of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Schweitzer estimated about 10 percent of Montana's federal stimulus money is on the ground at this time. He said it "takes a little time" to engineer projects, award bids and begin construction work.

Montana is running behind some states where governors were able to put federal stimulus money to work early on, he said.

Here, the stimulus appropriation bill went through the 2009 Legislature. Schweitzer said he didn't get the bill to sign into law until late April, he said.

Montana received $904.3 million in federal stimulus money, the Legislative Fiscal Division reported, plus $207.1 million for enhanced unemployment benefits.

Schweitzer's spokeswoman, Sarah Elliott, said the latest state figures, through June, show that 418 jobs have been created from stimulus money through the state Department of Labor and Industry, 267 jobs through the Commerce Department and 140 jobs through the Transportation Department. Smaller numbers of jobs came through other departments.

Because Montana is one of only two states not facing a budget deficit and has the largest budget surplus in state history, it doesn't have to spend money to "shore up state programs," as many states have done, Schweitzer said.

Montana's share of the stimulus money is being spent on the ground, he said.

"In Montana, we hadn't proposed laying anyone off," he said.

Schweitzer said the largest chunk of the stimulus money-- $220 million -- (DASH) is being spent to make Montana's highways and bridges safer.

Some money is being spent to make state buildings and schools throughout Montana more energy efficient, he said. Other funds will be spent to make drinking water safer in parts of Montana and for wastewater treatment.

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