Estimate: Direct Stimulus Jobs in Md. Total 4,464

Fri November 06, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Brian Witte - Associated Press




ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) An estimated 4,464 jobs in Maryland are being supported directly by federal economic recovery money so far, and greater benefits from the plan should turn up in the next reporting period, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s senior adviser said Oct. 29.

Michael Enright, O’Malley’s adviser, said there are 1,451 indirect jobs supported by the funded work, but not directly paid by recovery dollars. Maryland also tallied 8,167 “induced’’ jobs, ones the state said were created by increases in consumer activity due to recovery act dollars, Enright told reporters.

“We have not yet begun to see the real wave of recovery act dollars,’’ Enright said. “The big numbers are still coming. Next quarter is when you’re going to see a lot more job creation, a lot more dollars out the door.’’

The state numbers come as an Associated Press review found an early progress report on President Barack Obama’s recovery plan overstated by thousands the number of jobs created or saved nationally by the $787 billion stimulus program, a mistake that White House officials promise will be corrected in future reports.

The state numbers are estimates based on an economic model, and auditors have been hired to verify payroll documents submitted by contractors, Enright said.

The stimulus money had a big impact on the state’s budget process last year, enabling the state to avoid 700 layoffs O’Malley, a Democrat, initially included in his budget proposal last January. However, the state has lost roughly 33,000 jobs between February and September, according to the state’s labor department. The unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in September.

The state has created or preserved nearly 800 direct jobs and 500 indirect jobs relating to transportation projects. Out of about $413 million in highway construction funding, construction on about $184 million on 84 projects already have started construction, according to the administration.

Maryland was awarded $4.2 billion under the legislation. As of Sept. 30, Enright said about $2 billion has been made available to the state so far. About $229 million has been paid out, about 6 percent of the total $4.2 billion and 11 percent of what has been made available so far.

Enright said the federal government anticipated much more of the money would come out in 2010, and he described a tension between trying to pump the money into the economy quickly while also being careful the money was being used appropriately.

“I think there’s always going to be a tension between those two going forward here — this emphasis on getting these dollars into the economic bloodstream as quick as possible but also, you know, doing it the right way so we can show transparency and accountability on this,’’ Enright said.

Enright, who is O’Malley’s top aide focusing on recovery money in the state, also underscored that there is still a lot of work to come on tracking the flow of the money.

“We’re changing the tires on a moving car right now, and we don’t expect this to go perfectly, but we do think it’s going to go well and we certainly are going to tell you that it’s been a huge help for the state of Maryland and for our recovery as a state,’’ Enright said.

Enright also emphasized the administration would be forthright in correcting mistakes along the way.

“I just want to be clear that this is not going to be perfect, and the governor has made clear to us that when mistakes are discovered we’re going to correct them and we’re going to make sure that they don’t happen again,’’ Enright said.

O’Malley has made the accounting for the state’s recovery money a part of StateStat, a statistical based government accountability initiative he used on a smaller scale when he was mayor of Baltimore.

“We do not for an instant claim that all of our tracking has been perfect, but we do claim that it is the best and most accurate performance measured system I think among the 50 states, and we seek to improve it every single day,’’ O’Malley said at P. Flanigan and Sons Inc., a Baltimore asphalt company that has received three contracts under the stimulus plan.

Steve Whitecotton, vice president of the company, said without the help, the company of about 300 employees would have been down about 100 of them.

“We have been fortunate to keep our company intact through the program,’’ Whitecotton said.