PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Oregon has received about $1.8 billion in the first eight months of the federal stimulus program credited with saving or creating nearly 10,000 jobs in the state.
Reports released Oct. 31 showed the largest number of jobs saved by the spending, both nationally and in Oregon, was for teachers.
“We think it’s great news for Oregon’s economy,” said Becca Uhberlau, spokeswoman of the Oregon Education Association, the statewide teachers union.
The Oregon share of the stimulus money also is being used to repave hundreds of miles of roads, clear brush from fire-prone forests and dredge shipping lanes in the state’s harbors.
The money comes from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, a $787 billion federal spending bill pushed by President Barack Obama and approved by Congress in February. About two-thirds of the money has yet to be spent.
Oregon Health & Science University researchers Marilyn Huckans and Jennifer Loftis are among the recipients of the hundreds of federal contracts, loans and grants that have gone to Oregon as part of the massive federal effort to turn around the recession.
The researchers said they received nearly $1 million for their work on finding a more effective treatment for addicts. The money will be used to hire support staff and buy lab mice and equipment for two years of intense study.
“This is our big opportunity,” said Huckans. “We are finally able to get going.”
In a telephone briefing, Jared Bernstein, chief economist of Vice President Joe Biden, said the numbers did not include other parts of the stimulus package, such as tax cuts, higher unemployment checks and $250 bonuses to Social Security recipients.
“Those create jobs, too,” Bernstein said.
Job figures were gathered from state officials, private contractors and others who reported receiving stimulus funds. They were asked to list how many people were working who wouldn’t have jobs without the stimulus.
Among those reporting was Todd Construction, a Tigard firm that bids on big commercial contracts. It won a $1.9 million stimulus-funded project to replace screens in the fish passage section of Bonneville Dam to make it easier for young salmon to migrate to the Pacific Ocean.
Company Vice President Ken Dixon said he added six jobs to the overall stimulus calculation — two carpenters who had been laid off were hired back; two who were in danger of being laid off were kept on, and two supervisors who had run out of jobs were put on the Bonneville project.
Tim Duy, a University of Oregon economist, said there’s no question that spending federal money will put some people to work. But he warned the unemployment numbers are so high they continue to threaten hopes for a solid recovery.
“The recession is like a pothole,” Duy said, adding that the stimulus “threw some gravel in the bottom of the pothole. Is this good? Sure. But you’re still dropping into a pothole.”