Miami-Dade County stimulus net: 49 jobs at $4.7 million each
By Risa Polansky
More than $230 million in federal stimulus money intended to put people to work has created only 49 jobs for Miami-Dade so far, 38 of them through contractors.
That's $4.7 million per job.
And the money's no silver bullet for the plummeting revenue streams that led to a reported $444 million county budget gap this year.
Nor will it be next year, when some predict things will only get worse, citing a projected 12% hit to the property tax roll.
But it's too early to analyze the stimulus's jobs impact now, County Manager George Burgess stressed in a Nov. 23 memo, because money is still rolling in and the county is still seeking contractors for projects.
"Please be aware that job numbers — unlike grant applications and awards — are lagging indicators," he wrote. "In many cases, we are still waiting for approved funding to arrive. In other cases, associated jobs will not be created until we complete competitive bid processes."
Now, all the jobs fall under only four grants.
An almost $19.3 million award to the county's Public Housing Agency for improving energy efficiency in existing units accounts for 43 of the 49 total jobs, five direct and 38 contracted.
A $12.5 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant led to four direct jobs.
Nearly $5.5 million for a prisoner processing project has meant one direct job, as has a $50,000 arts grant to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.
But this is just the beginning, Mr. Burgess wrote.
He said he expects to really begin seeing the results of the stimulus program next year, predicting jobs numbers to "increase significantly during 2010; especially jobs created indirectly when contractors hire workers and those workers spend their salaries with local merchants and other businesses."
He acknowledged, though, that the stimulus grants do little to fill gaping gaps in the county's $7 billion-plus budget.
The money, predominately for capital projects, essentially can't be used for day-to-day operations.
Of the $230 million, $194 million is for capital projects and about $35.8 million for operating expenses.
Federal requirements dictate that "these funds may not be used to fund existing activities, and the potential of these funds to cover budget shortfalls is extremely limited," Mr. Burgess wrote. "Although ARRA [stimulus] funding has allowed the County to retain certain positions, in almost every instance funding restrictions have required that these positions be reassigned to new duties."
A federal Web site tracking stimulus funds reports Florida as a whole by Oct. 30 had been awarded $6.78 billion, had received $402 million of that and as a result would add or save 29,321 jobs.
Eventually, Mr. Burgess wrote, the jobs impact in Miami-Dade "will include increases in hours, shifts from part-time to full-time employment, temporary positions for young people, and increases in wages."
He called the stimulus "one of the few bright spots" during the recession.
The federal government so far has awarded Miami-Dade more than a third of the money it's asked for: $230 million of about $578 million in applications.