Aggressively pursue stimulus funds

Published 11:46 am Sunday, March 29, 2009

By Staff
On Friday, the N.C. Employment Security Commission said the state’s unemployment rate for February rose to 10.7 percent, the highest since the state began keeping jobless records in the 1970s. The state’s previous record high for unemployment came in February 1983 when the jobless rate was 10.2 percent.
North Carolina’s jobless rate is the fourth worst in the nation. Of our 50 states, only Michigan at 12 percent, South Carolina at 11 percent and Oregon at 10.8 percent are worse off than North Carolina.
Earlier this month, the Daily News reported that Beaufort, Hyde, Martin and Washington counties posted double-digit unemployment figures, and just last week, Beaufort County announced it will lay off some employees.
The unemployment picture likely will get worse, according to Pat Oswalt, manager of the Employment Security Commission office in Washington. He expects jobless rates to keep climbing.
But there’s also room for hope: It could come courtesy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
There are plenty of people with strong opinions about the massive $787 billion bill, but if the act’s stimulus money helps people keep their jobs or creates new ones, more power to it. That’s yet to be seen, of course, but fighting against it at this point does nobody any good.
Local, state and federal government leaders must ensure that eastern North Carolina gets its fair share of stimulus funds. On the local level, the city of Washington has aggressively taken a first step.
The city hired a temporary stimulus coordinator to identify and try to secure stimulus funds. It’s developed a priority list of projects that total nearly $25 million. Having any or all of those projects funded will help keep people working and possibly create new jobs.
Even at a time when citizens are closely scrutinizing the spending priorities of their local governments, hiring an expert to pursue stimulus money sounds like a wise move to us. Now, let’s see what that person can accomplish.