Stimulus reality check for Texas

February 26, 2009 4:30:54 AM PST
I love home grown tomatoes. I mean there is nothing better than a tomato you've grown in your own garden.[READ MORE: Check out Ted's InFocus blog]

So last weekend I cleared out a patch of dirt in my backyard, mixed in some compost with the soil, and got my embarrassingly small garden "shovel ready".

I still have to stare at those little plants for at least two months before I get any fruit from my shovel ready garden. However, that's fast compared to how long it will take Washington's stimulus storm to spread nationwide and grow roots in Texas.

Our investigation reveals it will take months for the millions to get here, even on those shovel ready projects.

Take transportation money. Texas should get $2.25 billion for transportation, but none of it before July. That doesn't really create jobs.

"I think summer to fall, probably closer to fall, is when you'll see most of the jobs happen through the transportation stimulus portion," said Steve Howard of the Houston Galveston Area Council.

The $5.5 billion for Texas schools might not get to Houston until July.

"Funds are always tight. This is an opportunity to ask what if resource wasn't a question, what would we do differently with kids? Now we have a resource to answer those questions," said Dr. Karen Garza, HISD Chief Academic Officer.

HISD expects to add jobs to help teach, train, and counsel students.

"When will it get here is still a key question," said Dr. Garza.

HISD hires in June and the money might not show up until July.

Our state will get $5.5 billion for Medicaid payments and it does the same thing. It is money the state would've had to find somewhere else in the budget.

Now they don't have to and this is a good example of how the stimulus will save jobs. The legislature would've had to make cuts to pay for Medicaid, but the $5.5 billion in Medicaid payments will save those cuts and countless state jobs. That is an immediate impact.

However, it's the exception, not the rule. So just like my tomatoes, there's the promise of fruit, but you just have to hope it's worth the wait.

There are two programs spending money immediately. Food stamp and unemployment benefits will increase in the next few weeks because of stimulus money.

For more on this story, you can read the InFocus blog.

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