One of the largest pieces of legislation in U.S. history was enacted this week when the President signed the American Economic Recovery Package.
While the price tag was eye-popping ($787 billion), economists from across the ideological spectrum agreed on the need for a package of major public works and stimulus spending at least this large to prevent further economic collapse.
With that knowledge and each day the fact that we are facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression becoming clearer, Congress and President Obama moved swiftly to craft a package designed to create or save 3.5 million jobs, cut taxes for 95% of workers and invest in an historic transformation of our economy.
For the Commonwealth, the bill means the creation and preservation of 116,580 jobs. Included with that, our state will receive roughly $39.2 million for job training and employment services and $265 million for unemployment benefits extension. To upgrade our deteriorating transportation infrastructure, $890 million will be made available-a large chunk which will go directly to Northern Virginia projects like Dulles Rail. Local school districts are on tap to receive nearly $800 million which includes school construction funding and special education assistance.
When viewing the package as a whole, the major pieces I thought readers would also be interested in include:
Homebuyers: First-time homebuyers who purchase this calendar year get an $8,000 tax credit. The credit phases out for people making more than $75,000 individually or $150,000 jointly. “First-time homebuyer” is defined as someone who has not owned a home for the past three years.
High-speed and inner-city rail: $8 billion allocated.
National Institutes of Health: $10 billion for new and continuing research made available.
Foreclosures: $2 billion for a neighborhood stabilization program that helps areas plagued with foreclosures by buying back properties to prevent blight.
Car buyers: Customers can deduct the sales tax on a new car purchased in 2009. To qualify, buyer must make less than $125,000 individually or $250,000 jointly.
Pell grants: Increase to a maximum of $5,350 per student in 2009-2010 year.
College tax credits: Individuals making less than $80,000 or families making less than $160,000 can get up to $2,500 in tax credits for college tuition.
Tax credits: Anyone making $75,000 individually or $150,000 as a family will get a refundable tax credit up to $400 per person or $800 per family.
And finally, to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately, the legislation created a board to oversee all stimulus spending, funded to the tune of $84 million. Hundreds of inspectors general will be tapped at the various government agencies to track spending decisions. Separately, President Obama created the www.recovery.gov website that provides the public full transparency and accountability of the process. Governor Kaine also created a site that allows individuals and localities to apply for stimulus funding, located at www.stimulus.virginia.gov.
The economic downturn we are in will not end overnight. But with this legislation, and the major pieces of economic reform to follow, including a major reform of our failing banking system, we can right our economic ship of state and again sail on prosperous waters.