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The stimulus passed. Now what?

Submitted by on 1, February 18, 2009 – 7:30 am2 Comments

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama signed a $787 billion stimulus bill that includes – well, something for everyone. So what’s next for our fair burg? Does the federal government helicopter in a huge chunk of cash and drop it on the front lawn at City Hall? Not exactly.

The bill has money for a host of transportation, energy, infrastructure and other projects as well as cash to “stabilize” everyone from people who are unemployed and facing homelessness to state governments bobbing on a sea of red ink (and I see there’s more money for digital set-top converters too.Yay!). So what does this mean for us? Well …

I checked in with Deputy City Manager Lisa Goldman, the city’s reigning stimulus expert. And as it turns out, now that the bill has passed, the real work begins. Many of the new and expanded grants and loans authorized by the bill will be handed out according to formulas, which are typically based on things like population size (and even then, it’s not clear how much each city could get). But a lot of the money will be awarded based on rules that have yet to be written by the federal departments that will be handing it out.

City officials know they will get some money to do some resurfacing projects on Fernside Boulevard and on Central Avenue, but at this point, that’s about it. Goldman said the funding categories shifted through the sprawling bill’s flight through Congress and onto the President’s desk, so they’re not totally sure yet how much they’ll qualify for or what it can be spent on.

“We’re still working our way through the bill and the various categories to see what else we might be an option for us,” Goldman said. She said the city’s in wait-and-see mode for the rules and potential funding amounts, and that she hopes to have more information in the next few weeks.

Still, she told the council last night that the city should get money for energy efficiency projects, public housing and its community development block grant program, which helps pay for services for low-income residents. The city could also apply for clean water grants and loans included in the bill.

The city’s original $67.6 million “wish list” included money for restoration of the old Carnegie Library ($5.63 million), reconstruction of a portion of Harbor Bay Parkway ($5 million) and improvements to the Harbor Bay dike and seawall ($5 million), demolition and infrastructure improvements for Alameda Landing ($4.75 million) and construction of theStargell Avenue extension, considered a “must” for moving Alameda Landing forward ($9 million of the $20 million project).

Goldman said park projects like resurfacing basketball and tennis courts and replacing fences that are included on the list won’t qualify for funding under the newly signed bill.

“One thing we did know is that we would have to spend the money quickly – (within) 90 to 120 days. That’s a pretty high bar,” Goldman told the council last night, saying projects that need environmental or historical review can’t get going that fast. “We may have a long list of very worthy infrastructure projects, but they just don’t qualify.”

The bill is available here, and the city’s original wish list, here. For a more detailed breakdown of the bill, click here. And if you’re looking to keep track of how the money is spent, our new President has set up a website for that, too.

2 Comments »

  • Another aspect of the stimulus relates to the transit funding, which is sent to the MTC to pass-through. Currently, MTC is looking at spending 55% of these funds on a completely unnecessary BART Oakland Airport Connector and the transbay terminal that won't be built for years.

    This will result in an over $12 million reduction in funding for AC Transit (based on MTC's traditional funding formula). AC Transit is already about to take a major hit from the loss of state funds in the state budget, this is going to result in cuts to service that will have a direct impact on Alameda service.

    There is a hearing scheduled for 2/25 at MTC on this issue from 9:30 – 11:30.

  • Quick follow up on this. MTC has revised it's proposal yesterday, removing the transbay terminal, but maintaining the use of 21% of all transit stimulus money for the Oakland airport connector.

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