The latest unemployment figures from the state Employment Development Department show Siskiyou County at 18.7 percent during March 2008, up from 14 percent in December 2008.
That’s 970 more people without jobs now than in December, making December look like the good old days.
As bleak as the unemployment picture is, the state announced some good news about restarting projects last week and putting to use money available through the federal Recovery Act. It is, however, still unclear how those funds will translate into jobs in Siskiyou County.
Last week Governor Schwarzenegger announced that more than 5,000 projects that had gone unfunded will be restarted throughout the state thanks to the sale of $6.85 billion in bonds, including $5.2 billion in Recovery-Act backed bonds.
California is the first state in the nation to sell Build America Bonds, taking advantage of one of the opportunities provided by the federal Recovery Act. Build America Bonds are a new financing tool created for states and local governments to assist in capital projects by lowering borrowing equivalent to 35 percent of the interest costs on the bonds (so the federal government pays part of the interest on the bond loans).
“California is restarting thousands of critical infrastructure projects that have been frozen because of tight credit markets and the state’s cash crisis,” the Governor said last week in a press release.
Projects included are: California State University and the University of California, community colleges, Caltrans, and the Department of Water Resources.
It’s anticipated that other projects will be funded by grants that had been frozen, including school construction, environmental and park projects, programs for clean air (engine retrofits and clean port projects), wastewater treatment projects, improvements to drinking water infrastructure, children’s hospitals, public safety grants and local library projects.
Getting the funds into local hands can be a complex process, according to Camille Anderson, a spokesperson from the governor’s office. “Every pot of money is different,” Anderson said in a phone interview. “It depends on which federal agency is involved and if it’s a loan or a tax incentive.”
Green Corps launched
One new program the Governor launched in March is the California Green Corps. The new program essentially will help underprivileged young people learn job skills while creating a well-trained workforce for clean technology and the green economy, the Governor said. The goal will be to place 1,000 at-risk youth, ages 16-24, through a 20-month pilot program with $10 million in Recovery Act money to fund it.
In addition, California will use $10 million from public and private partnerships for a $20 million kick-start.
The pilot program will be run through CaliforniaVolunteers and is set to begin this summer. This pairing could give the fledging Green Corps the start it needs because the CaliforniaVolunteers is positioned to work across state agencies, regional non-profits, foundations and business and is positioned to leverage federal stimulus money.
Where that will go and what the Corps will do first once it is up and running is still up in the air. But the state has been divided into 10 zones. Each zone will be allowed to apply for a grant from the state and the winning models will be selected by the Green Corps advisory committee.
The Green Corps is one more step the governor is using to build a green economy in the state. Projections by the governor’s office estimate that the number of jobs that will be created directly from California’s emerging green policies could reach 114,000 and bring in up to $25.3 billion dollars in the next decade.
The Governor last week sent a letter to city and county elected officials throughout the state “urging them to work with their local Workforce Investment Boards to ensure Recovery Act funding is expended quickly and effectively to assist unemployed Californians in job training and finding new jobs.”