Tom Perriello | Fifth District Report
Last week, we received more sobering news as we learned that our economy lost another 651,000 jobs in February, bringing the national unemployment rate to 8.1 percent. In some communities in the Fifth District, the unemployment rate is nearly double this. 4.4 million Americans have now lost their jobs since this recession began last year, and there are now nearly 3 million Americans who have been unemployed for six months or more. That means millions of families who are struggling to put food on the table, stay in their homes, and pay their medical bills.
The roots of this economic crisis are deep. We didn’t get into this mess overnight; it took years of irresponsibility and bad decisions to build up this $1.3 trillion deficit. Now it will take time to climb out of it. But I am committed to fighting everyday to create jobs and working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to put our economy on the road to recovery. We need to do whatever is necessary to break the destructive cycle of job loss in this country and put Americans back to work.
That’s why it is heartening to see the economic recovery plan passed by Congress just three weeks ago already being put to work in Virginia. The General Assembly passed a state budget that relied heavily on the federal stimulus funds to avoid deep spending cuts in essential services such as education, health care and public safety. Gov. Kaine announced that more than 7,000 jobs were saved because of the stimulus plan, including our teachers in the classroom and police officers on the street. For example, in Mecklenburg County, a new school budget with stimulus funds included had saved 70 teacher jobs.
In Virginia, more than $365 million from the recovery funds will offset cuts for public schools. The state will also receive $281 million over two years for special education and $165 million for schools serving students from low-income families under the federal Title I program. Virginia will also receive nearly $40 million in public safety funding from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant Program, which supports a wide range of law enforcement activities. This funding will help to avoid budget cuts to sheriffs.
As well, $116 million in transit funding was released last week to the Commonwealth of Virginia, which will help create jobs now while investing in the long-term infrastructure so important to our communities. The fact that this money is moving out so rapidly and going to shovel-ready projects is exactly the kind of quick, decisive action characterized by the new Congress and new Administration.
I encourage you to learn more about these and other projects by visiting www.recovery.gov and www.stimulus.virginia.gov, both of which provide more detailed information about how the money is being spent. We still have a long way to go to recover the millions of jobs that have been lost, but at the very least, we can already point to our schools and sheriffs’ offices and know that the recovery plan has made a difference. As more of the funding is released and projects in the 5th district are considered for funding, I look forward to reporting more about how the recovery plan has helped our communities.
Please feel free to contact me to share your concerns and ideas. You may write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; call (202) 225-4711; or visit www.perriello.house.gov.
– Tom Perriello represents Virginia’s Fifth District in the United States Congress.