In his first three months in office, President Barack Obama has transformed government into an activist tool that seeks to help American citizens recapture their share of the American dream. Not since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal or Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society has an administration acted so boldly and swiftly to rebuild a nation. The result has been a mix of programs––the centerpiece of which is the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, commonly referred to as the stimulus package or bill, which intends to kick-start the economy by providing new jobs, tax breaks, and help for small businesses in addition to extending unemployment and health benefits. According to Recovery.gov, billions have already been dispersed to state and local agencies to engage in projects such as infrastructure repair, environmental cleanup, educational reform, and emergency assistance to disadvantaged families. In a conference call in March, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President Valerie Jarrett asserted that citizens must be participants in the process and actively seek out programs and services that offer relief as well as opportunities. That’s why our editors developed this package. We want to provide a breakdown of initiatives for job seekers, homeowners and buyers, taxpayers, and small business owners.
These days, with roughly 13 million unemployed Americans, most job seekers are looking for any type of employment––even a series of odd jobs and part-time gigs––to make ends meet. President Obama’s Recovery Act promises to save or create more than 3 million jobs in areas such as healthcare, technology, renewable energy, education, and construction. But what can the unemployed do until those jobs become available? Gay Gilbert, administrator for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workforce Investment, Employment and Training Administration, says the agency received approximately $4 billion from the stimulus bill as an infusion for such programs––double the amount it spends annually. Although the Labor Department funds national programs, it’s up to state agencies to implement them. Gilbert explains that money flows directly from the federal government to the states. Local workforce investment boards decide how to allocate money and are responsible for implementing One-Stop Career Centers using Department of Labor program funding. “The stimulus has helped ramp up a new capacity to serve. Before the stimulus, our One-Stop Career Centers were really overflowing,” she says. “There was desperation for services because states were so overwhelmed. But I think states are starting to solve these challenges.”