Stimulus money spent in Wisconsin saved or created 8,284 jobs, but most of the money was spent on teachers, police officers and firefighters, according to the state’s stimulus spending report.
“The federal stimulus package has not helped construction that much,” said Tom Fisher, president and business manager of the Wisconsin Laborers’ District Council. “It’s not what we expected at all.”
The federal government Thursday will make public the mandatory stimulus reports on job creation and retention from states. Gov. Jim Doyle on Tuesday announced Wisconsin’s report, saying that about 6,100 of the jobs created or saved by stimulus money were those tied to such government services as teaching, law enforcement and firefighting.
Money for construction workers is available — the report includes 221 stimulus-financed Wisconsin Department of Transportation highway projects alone — but little of the money has made it to the state, so little construction work has begun.
The state’s Office of Energy Independence, for example, reported it is due to take in $73.3 million in federal stimulus money for energy-related construction and renovation projects and programs. To date, not one job has been created from that money, according to the stimulus report.
The same lack of job creation is true, according to the report, for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ clean water grants program, which will get $105.9 million in stimulus money for clean water-related projects.
Dan Olson, a member of the DNR’s environmental improvement budget staff, said projects that will be reimbursed with the federal money could start by year end. He also said some projects that will be reimbursed with the stimulus money might be under way, but the department has no way of measuring how many jobs are created.
Calls to the Office of Energy Independence and the Office of Recovery and Reinvestment were not returned before deadline Tuesday.
For many construction workers still waiting, Fisher said, the promise of stimulus money to come offers less comfort than it once did.
“I remember when the question was whether we’d have enough people to fill all these jobs that were going to be available,” he said. “It’s not been an issue thus far. I’ve got a lot of members closing shop for the year already, and it’s only October.”
State Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, said the reported 8,284 jobs created sounds “anemic.” He said stimulus spending is failing to stimulate the building industry.
“I think we’re going to find out later that even the jobs that we did get didn’t spin off the other jobs people were hoping for,” he said. “Everybody remembers the days of the Hoover Dam and all the people that were employed by those projects, but it’s a different world we live in now.
“If you’re laid off, I don’t think the numbers we have are a lot of hope.”
Fisher said the stimulus-backed construction work has not yet revived the private sector, and, even if more work is in the pipeline, unemployed workers are short on time.
“I’ve got a lot of members running out of unemployment benefits,” he said. “If it’s always a matter of tomorrow, that’s tough, because families not working today are the ones losing homes.”