Report: Stimulus helped S.D. teachers, workersPIERRE — The federal stimulus program has created or saved the equivalent of 1,407 full-time jobs so far in South Dakota, with many of them going to construction workers, teachers and young people seeking summer jobs, according to state government’s first report for the recovery package.
By: Chet Brokaw, The Associated Press
PIERRE — The federal stimulus program has created or saved the equivalent of 1,407 full-time jobs so far in South Dakota, with many of them going to construction workers, teachers and young people seeking summer jobs, according to state government’s first report for the recovery package.
Officials in South Dakota and other states had to file reports on the amount state agencies had spent and the number of jobs created or saved by Sept. 30. President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, passed by Congress in February, will continue to provide federal aid to the state for another two years.
State budget director Jason Dilges said additional jobs will be created as more federal money is received for a variety of state programs. Reports will be filed every three months.
“We certainly haven’t reached the finish line as it relates to jobs being saved or created,” Dilges said Friday.
From the equivalent of 332 jobs created in a program that retrained adult workers and gave young people summer job experience to the equivalent of half a full-time job saved in a program that cleans up leaking underground storage tanks, state agencies had to report how they have used the federal money.
The report covers only stimulus spending through state agencies. It counts jobs directly created by programs but does not try to calculate the ripple effect of that spending. Later reports will deal with money that has gone to federal agencies and local governments.
Dilges said the job numbers reported so far do not equate to the number of people who were hired or retained. For example, someone who worked on a road construction project for four months would be counted as one-third of a full-time job. So the number of people working on stimulus-funded highway projects is far higher than the 139 jobs listed under federal reporting rules for the program, he said.
Dilges planned to discuss the stimulus spending Monday with the Legislature’s Interim Appropriations Committee.
South Dakota has spent about $220 million of the $632 million allocated to state government, or about 35 percent of what state agencies will get during the three years the program will operate. South Dakota has spent a greater portion of its allocation than most other states because it took some money to balance the state budget in the year that ended June 30, while other states did not take money until the current budget year, Dilges said. That gave the state a good start in creating and saving jobs, he said.
“We’ve been fairly aggressive, and it’s worked out well for us,” Dilges said.
The Transportation Department reported that construction companies working on highway projects funded with stimulus money have saved or created the equivalent of 139 year-round, fulltime jobs, but the number of workers was higher than that because most construction jobs last only for the warmer months. The DOT so far has awarded 16 stimulus contracts worth $93 million, about half the money that will be used for highway and bridge projects over three years.
Toby L. Crow, executive vice president of the Associated General Contractors of South Dakota, said stimulus paving projects have helped save some jobs, but highway construction employment has still fallen.
“It really didn’t get us back to where we were in the amount of work contractors were doing a couple of years ago. We’re still down, so obviously our labor numbers are down and unemployment is up,” Crow said. “But don’t get me wrong. Without the stimulus, it would have been worse.”
State Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist said 14 road projects started construction this year in the stimulus program. “It’s added work for the highway construction workers. It’s been very effective that way.”
The DOT reported that another 127 jobs were created by stimulus grants to help local governments buy new vehicles and construct new buildings for public transportation services.
In addition to providing summer jobs for young people, the state Labor Department also hired the equivalent of 51 people to provide services to those who have lost their jobs.
Programs that will make state and local government buildings more energy-efficient also will support more than 200 jobs.
The Education Department reported 475 jobs were saved or created in schools and other programs that help children with developmental delays or other learning problems.
However, the report does not list most teaching jobs and other positions that are supported in part with stimulus money that is designated to help the state balance its budget, Dilges said.
The state used $71 million in stimulus funds to balance the budget for the year ending June 30. Another $88 million is being used to balance the current budget, and $65 million will be used next year.
The money used to balance the state budget is mostly designated for state aid to school districts and the Medicaid program that uses state and federal funds to provide medical care for low-income people. It’s doubtful the state would have significantly cut aid to schools without the stimulus money, so the report does not list any teaching jobs as being saved, Dilges said.
The extra stimulus money has meant that the state did not have to tap its reserves or raise taxes to continue state aid to schools or the Medicaid program, Dilges said.