Sandra Emerson, Staff Writer
Created: 02/27/2010 11:44:11 PM PST
Over the past year, federal stimulus dollars have been making their way to various projects and programs in the Inland Empire.
About $463 million has been awarded in San Bernardino County alone. The money is targeted at variety of goals, coming from federal agencies such as the U.S. departments of Justice, Energy, Housing and Urban Development as well as the Federal Highway Administration.
San Bernardino Associated Governments, the transportation planning agency for San Bernardino County, was awarded $128 million in stimulus funding to widen the 215 Freeway through San Bernardino. The construction cost is estimated to total more than $400million, and the project is expected to be completed in four years.
“It was one of the four largest projects, road projects, in the nation to receive stimulus funding,” said Deborah Barmack, executive director of Sanbag.
The stimulus funds made up for some of the money that fell through when the economy took a dive, Barmack said.
The funding Sanbag received for the 215 Freeway project also allowed the agency to create its own stimulus package for the cities in San Bernardino County.
“We were able to take $30 million of local dollars that were available and make it available for each of the 24 cities in the county for local projects,” Barmack said.
As far as how many jobs were created through the project, Barmack said the federal government has put together a formula.
“The formula for this indicates that there’s 8,100 direct and indirect jobs, but that data requires a little bit of explaining,” Barmack said.
The 8,100 equals about 2,000 direct and indirect jobs a year over the four-year span of the project, she said.
“The contractor said at peak, he’ll have about 650 people on the site,” Barmack said.
Much of the stimulus funding has been geared toward job creation programs, such as job training.
The San Bernardino County Department of Workforce Development received just over $15million about a year ago, which was put to use training adults for future jobs and placing teenagers in a summer job program.
More than 1,800 youth were put to work over the summer, said Sandy Harmsen, director of the Workforce Development Department and executive director of the county Workforce Investment Board, a public/private partnership that oversees the administration of federal dollars in the county, primarily for skills training for residents.
About half of the money was to be used for a summer youth jobs program and the rest was to be used for job training for adults.
“Last summer we had one of the most successful programs across the nation,” Harmsen said. “We were one of the only work investment areas to be able to get all the money out there as was directed.”
Stimulus money for adult jobs went to three employment resource centers to help train unemployed residents in specific industries.
Certain sectors were pinpointed by the Workforce Investment Board as areas that would contribute to strengthening the county economy.
Job training focused on the transportation and logistics, manufacturing, aviation, health care and environmental fields.
“We wanted to train in those industry sectors because we believed these will be the sectors that will be strong once the economy turns back around,” Harmsen said. “And they are sectors still hiring, although at a much slower rate, they’re still hiring.”
Training is coming to an end, but the department will not know how many people were able to find jobs until the state Employment Development Department completes its quarterly jobs report, Harmsen said.
“We do know that in many of the health care classes that we did through the adult school that people are finding employment, but we don’t have a number yet from the EDD because it’s too soon,” Harmsen said.
Many cities have had to freeze the hiring of police officers to meet their budget, but the COPS Hiring Recovery Program was created to allow cities to hire officers with stimulus money.
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