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Stimulus brought 18K Utah jobs, $1.9B for projects

WASHINGTON — The White House said Wednesday that the 1-year-old federal stimulus law created or saved 18,000 jobs in Utah and made available $1.9 billion for projects ranging from renovating highways to replacing the Dinosaur National Monument visitor center and removing uranium tailings near Moab.

"One year later, it is largely thanks to the recovery act that a second depression is no longer a possibility," President Barack Obama said as he released data about stimulus effects nationwide.

While he said the stimulus kept up to 2 million people on the job nationally, he acknowledged to millions of others who are out of work and losing patience, "It doesn't yet feel like much of a recovery."

Marking the anniversary of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Obama said, "There has never been a program of this scale, moved at this speed, that has been enacted as effectively and as transparently."

The United States has lost an astounding 8.4 million jobs since this recession began in December 2007, but Obama said it would have been even worse without the stimulus. Vice President Joe Biden, who has led stimulus implementation, took a swipe at critics, saying, "They're unwilling to step up. Well, not us."

The White House released data about how it figures the package has helped Utah, including:

Creating or saving 18,000 Utah jobs, according to analysis by the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Making available $1.9 billion for projects and services in Utah, and more than $1.1 billion has already been spent.

Helping fund 125 transportation projects in Utah, costing more than $371 million. Some of the larger projects using stimulus funding include widening Syracuse Road between 1000 West and 2000 West in Syracuse, adding lanes to I-15 between 7200 South and 10000 South in Salt Lake County, and resurfacing I-80 between Echo Junction and Emory.

Some key infrastructure projects include replacing the Quarry Visitor Center at Dinosaur National Monument. The old visitor center, which protected a cliff of carefully exposed fossils, had been condemned for years as unsafe.

Other projects include a $104.9 million contract with EnergySolutions to accelerate removal of dangerous uranium mill tailings from the banks of the Colorado River near Moab, an $87.3 million grant for modernization and renovation of public schools in Utah, and $48.3 million for a Utah Transit Authority light-rail yard and shop and purchase of five commuter buses.

Some key services provided by the stimulus include a $10.3 million grants for employment and job training services by the Utah Department of Workforce Services, a $37.9 million grant for weatherization assistance programs, and $22.3 million for child care programs in Utah.

According to the White House, the stimulus also:

Provided guarantees for 1,691 loans to small businesses in Utah, supporting more than $413 million in lending to them.

Provided a Making Work Pay tax credit to 900,000 Utah working families, providing them $500 million in tax relief.

Gave expanded unemployment benefits to 110,000 Utah residents.

Provided one-time economic relief payments of $250 each to about 296,000 Utah seniors, veterans and others in high need, totaling more than $74 million.

Funded about 1,900 eduction positions in the fourth quarter of 2009, at a cost of more than $350 million.

Made available more than $206 million to help prevent additional Medicaid cuts in Utah. The White House said Utah has spent about $161 million of the available funds.

Republicans, meanwhile, attacked the stimulus as costing too much and providing too little relief. Among critics was Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who, as chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, complained that Obama's more restrictive policies on oil and gas development have destroyed many jobs.

"It is clear that instead of continually throwing money at the problem … we must reverse course and adopt a new game plan that helps put more Americans back to work. That begins by empowering the American people with pro-business policies that allow taxpayers to keep and invest more of their hard-earned tax dollars," Bishop said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, also attacked the stimulus, saying, "The American people were promised that it would stop the unemployment rate from going over 8 percent, that 90 percent of the jobs created would be in the private sector and that it would jump start our economy immediately. Regrettably, none of those things has turned out to be true."

Meanwhile, both political parties predicted that voters will make the opposite party pay either for its support or opposition to the stimulus.

For example, Utah Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Holland said, "All four of Utah's Republicans in Washington voted against the Recovery Act but still sent letters requesting federal money from projects proving that they care more about scoring political points than putting Utahns back to work."

Holland added, "This November we expect Utah voters to send a clear message that they will hold our congressional Republicans accountable for their obstruction in helping Utahns keep or get jobs, pay for their homes, improve their communities, and provide for their families."

Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee attacked the Utah delegation's lone Democrat, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, for voting for the stimulus a year ago.

"Are middle-class families better off now than they were when Jim Matheson and his fellow Democrats began their trillion-dollar spending spree a year ago?" NRCC communications director Ken Spain said.

"By supporting his party's out-of-control spending binge, Matheson has piled a mountain of debt onto the backs of Utah taxpayers with nothing to show for it but a ballooning deficit and a painfully high unemployment rate," Spain said. "His constituents are left asking: 'Where are the jobs?' "

Contributing: Associated Press

e-mail: lee@desnews.com