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Concerns raised about black access to stimulus funding

President Barack Obama's $787 billion federal stimulus package, now known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, is designed to jumpstart the nation's failing economy not only through grants and middle-class tax cuts, but by funding state ''shovel-ready'' construction projects that will hopefully produce thousands of jobs and small business opportunities, especially in the black community.

Just last week, Pres. Obama unveiled new proposals to allow small businesses easier access to loans and capital through the US Small Business Administration in an effort to empower them to take better advantage of stimulus package opportunities.

But even before North Carolina fully determines how to distribute its $6.1 billion in federal stimulus funding, questions are being raised as to how African-Americans can best access their share of the opportunity pot.

Democrats propose oversight processes for stimulus, TARP funds

PORTLAND, Ore. (NNPA) - Rep. Chip Shields (D-Portland) this week introduced a bipartisan bill that would provide oversight of how state-chartered banks are spending money disbursed through the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).

The move comes at the same time another new bill would create a statewide “stimulus czar” to oversee the influx of money expected from President Barack Obama’s economic plan.

If passed, Shields’ House Bill 2784 would convene a bipartisan group of Oregon state senators and representatives, as well as members of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services and representatives of the financial industry, to provide oversight and evaluate the need for regulation of operations of financial institutions licensed, certified or chartered in this state that receive funds from the TARP program.

New Reports: Energy Effiiciency, Stimulus Spending and National Prosperity, and Much More

The Center for American Progress has a new interactive map to view the unemployment numbers in each state

Harvesting Low-Hanging Energy Savings
 - Families and businesses fail to invest in energy efficiency for a variety of reasons: utility companies discourage it since their profits are often tied to electricity sold or landlords often don't profit from efficiency investments. This Center for American Progress report highlights how "energy efficiency resource standards" - adopted in 18 states - can generate real energy savings for consumers.

Metropolitan Recovery and Spending Priorities - This series of papers by the Brookings Institution suggests how the federal budget plan and recovery package might affect the metropolitan drivers of national prosperity, including innovation, human capital, infrastructure, and sustainable places.

State Action for the Unemployed

On Thursday, the official unemployment rate climbed to 8.1% nationwide as employers shed an additional 651,00 workers last month. Add in sharp rises in the number of involuntary part-time and long-time discouraged workers, and the unemployment rate rose to 14.8%. While long-term job growth is the goal of the recovery package, states need to, and some are already stepping up to, address the immediate needs of the unemployed. This Dispatch emphasizes key programs states can take advantage of to help their unemployed workers.

OR's Big Idea: Protect Stimulus Dollars with Contractor Reform


Salem, OR - Representatives of some national "good government" groups will be in Salem today for the first hearing on two bills that would tighten requirements for who gets government contracts and how they use the money. The Oregon legislation could be used by other states that are looking for ways to track job creation and increase accountability.

In fact, Oregon has some ideas that other states may soon be anxious to copy. This morning, a House committee in Salem discusses two bills that propose turning up the heat on government contractors by setting quality standards and tracking their progress. With billions of dollars of federal stimulus money at stake — and a president who says it must be used to create jobs — states are scrambling to figure out how to meet federal requirements.

Stimulus transparency a work in progress — Federal spending Web site basic; state's improving

Ever since Steve Watson had his first job at age 16 picking asparagus, he's paid his taxes. And he's always wanted to ensure the government spends his money wisely.

So naturally, when the 53-year-old heard that President Barack Obama pledged a new era of transparency with his 3-week-old $787 billion stimulus package, Watson was glad he could log online and check how every dollar was spent.

National experts visit Oregon to testify in support of precedent-setting transparency legislation

Salem, OR — Amidst renewed calls from the Obama administration for accountability from private contractors on the federal level, the Oregon State House of Representatives is considering a bill that would far outstrip the contractor accountability provisions maintained by any state governments to date.

This Monday at 8am, leading transparency experts from the national Coalition for an Accountable Recovery (CAR) will testified before the Oregon House Business and Labor Committee in support of the bill, HB 2037, which would require private contractors in Oregon to disclose the number of employees and the wages, they pay. This is especially important with the federal government requiring transparency on jobs created through the $6.48 billion in federal funds set aside for Oregon under the recovery plan.