Today, Vice President Joe Biden announced specific benchmarks that the federal government will use to determine whether the Recovery Act has been a success. But none of his benchmarks include numbers of jobs created. October will see the roll out of recipient data from beneficiaries of the Recovery Act, allowing the public to better understand how and whether Recovery monies have been reaching our communities. But we already know that in many cases the answer is no, it has not. Florida was one of the hardest hit by the recession, and has finished dead last in the race to spend recovery money. Gihan Perera of the Miami Workers Center explains at Huffington Post:
There is slow spending at the state level despite the fact that Florida’s unemployment rate, foreclosure rate, and general economic disarray is higher than most other places in the country. After all, we (including California and Texas) were the epicenter of the mortgage crisis. Our state is the poster child for why the stimulus was necessary. BUT, Since I haven’t joined the ranks of the tea baggers yet (the right wing crazies have been outside stimulus meetings calling for the heads of these same officials, including our Republican governor), I hold a hope that the massive investment of stimulus dollars still has the potential to dramatically restructure the Florida economy, not just patch the holes in it. So, with a deep breath, I offer to these officials and our great republic the following fundamentals:
Transparency — The Obama administration has made the case that the ARRA will be the most transparent use of government funds ever, the key feature of which is the Recovery websites that exist by state and in local areas. But those aren’t helpful if we can’t actually see where the money gets to: what businesses and what communities are being invested in, and what people are actually getting the money and jobs. Accountability — Accountability is more than just good accounting of the money. Real accountability exists in who decides where the money goes. Currently, most of that decision making is by politicians and bureaucrats. We need to put that power in the hands of the people in local communities to enforce a fundamentally democratic process to determine priorities and needs. Without that, and this is what is happening in Florida, the money ends up filling in for the Republican legislature’s refusal to make profiteers pay their fair share; it funds politicians pet projects; and it goes into the pockets of ‘shovel ready’ big businesses and does not develop local community level infrastructure. Race matters — This is the final, and perhaps most important, point. For good and long term sustainability of Florida, we need to make the economies of the urban centers whole and sustainable. This is where the overall population, the concentration of people of color, poverty, unemployment, and structural inequity reside. It is where unscrupulous financial practices led to the housing bubble. There will be no fundamental turnaround unless investment is targeted at those communities in a way that is scaled, appropriate, and specific. This starts by tracking the stimulus and its impact by race, income, and gender, and then by designing programs and processes that meet the specific needs of those communities.
The Miami Workers Center, along with the Kirwan Institute and Research Institute for Social and Economic Policy, just released the first in a four part study on stimulus spending in Florida, seen through the lens of race, gender and geography. The study provides background research for a campaign to shift federal dollars to benefit geographic and racial communities that need it. The series of reports are being released at town halls across Florida, in areas that make up a majority of the Black and Latino population in Florida. Yesterday on RaceWire, Yvonne Liu gave a preview of the work ARC has been doing to score the Recovery. We have been following the recovery and its promise to stimulate the economy while protecting the planet and its peoples through the creation of green jobs. Watch this page on October 13 for the release of our Green Equity Toolkit, ideas and resources for community and labor advocates on how to create equity in the emerging green economy. If we are to follow the directive of ARRA and the subsequent Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance to help those most impacted by the recession, then we must make race and gender equity key in our planning and practices around green job creation. The toolkit will help us do that. Stay tuned at this space for more on the Green Equity Toolkit being jointly released in mid-October with Green for All. And visit FairRecovery.org for the latest analysis of stimulus spending in Florida and beyond.