For Immediate Release: February 16, 2010
One Year Later: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
One year ago this week, President Obama signed the historic American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Much of the recent public discourse on the measure of its success has focused on whether it created a quantifiable number of jobs and to what degree it has and continues to stimulate the economy. These are important policy questions, but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that "reinvestment" in the nation's social infrastructure is a significant piece of the Recovery Act and equally essential to short- and long-term recovery.
To that end, the Recovery Act has had an immediate impact, has worked as intended and has benefited millions of Americans, especially low-income families and individuals who have been most affected by the economic downturn and likely will be the slowest to recover. The Recovery Act included a much-needed infusion of funding for core safety net programs, including Unemployment Insurance, nutrition assistance or Food Stamps, cash assistance, health insurance and child care assistance. The additional funds meant that millions of long-term unemployed received unemployment benefit extensions and help paying for health insurance, millions who struggled were able to put food on the table, and more families were able to access the child care they needed to continue working or search for jobs. As difficult as things are now for vulnerable families, they would have been much worse without these critical investments. With unemployment projected to remain high at least through 2011 and rising economic insecurity and poverty, these needed benefits must be maintained.
Equally important, the Recovery Act invested in programs that will have long-term benefits for individuals and families and, ultimately, the nation. It expanded funding for Pell grants, and increased support for the federal work study program, which provides part-time jobs for disadvantaged college students and allows them to earn money to help pay education expenses. The Recovery Act also nearly doubled funding for workforce development programs that serve low-income workers and others with barriers to employment. The programs allow adults to gain the skills and marketable credentials they need to access good jobs that pay family-sustaining wages. Further, the Recovery Act provided 300,000 additional summer jobs for disadvantaged youth.
The Recovery Act invested in the future of young children by providing funds through the Child Care and Development Block Grant and Head Start that allowed states to maintain and expand investments in early childhood programs as part of federal and state goals to improve access to high quality programs across the early childhood system.
The short- and long-term benefits of "reinvestment" in our nation's social infrastructure cannot be over looked. The entire country benefits when more children and youth receive the appropriate educational foundation to help them succeed in school and in life and when more adults get the requisite education, training or skills to access and maintain family-sustaining employment and contribute to the nation's economy.
The stimulus funds did their job; they stimulated the economy, helped families stay in jobs or get the help they need to offset economic losses, and they invested in children. Yet after nearly a decade of inadequate funding in programs that create the social safety net, far too many families are just one step away from insolvency. The Recovery Act alone will not correct this. We must continue to support the tenuous recovery with investments in programs that strengthen and support families and provide education, training and other pathways to opportunity.