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Stimulus Awards $950 Million to D.C.

William Reed | 5/13/2009, 9:34 a.m.

City officials and members of the District€s business community gathered at the THEARC in Southeast earlier this month to discuss plans for the use of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) stimulus funds and how the influx of dollars will impact the city. The $787 billion Congressional legislation package aims to inject money into the economy and quickly boost employment. The District is slated to receive a minimum of $950 million over the next two years.

The two-hour presentation, hosted by the District of Columbia Building Industry Association€s (DCBIA) East of the River Neighborhood Development Committee, attracted about 200 guests -- primarily business professionals. The DCBIA represents both the commercial and residential real estate industries in the District and includes developers, general contractors, architects and engineers, lenders, attorneys, brokers and title and utility companies.

€The money is supposed to boost the local economy and employment quickly,€ said Julius Ware, president of the Ward 7 Business and Professional Association in Northeast. Ware who attended the presentation said that his group hopes more money comes across the river.

€We hope that we are able to get real jobs and business opportunities. We don€t want construction projects in Ward 7 to be a jobs program for Maryland and Virginia residents. There are more than 800 businesses in Ward 7 alone. We are expanding our relationship with DCBIA East of the River Neighborhood Development Committee. We want to access the stimulus dollars because much of the funding is for job creation and construction projects. We need job creation and residents need skill enhancement,€ Ware said.

D.C. City Administrator Dan Tangherlini said €the bill provides funds to the District of Columbia for a variety of activities.€ During the presentation, Tangherlini outlined projects that include road and bridge construction, public transportation improvements, energy efficiency and environmental projects of special interests to DCBIA businesses.

Mayor Adrian Fenty said earlier this year that €the stimulus bill gives us a unique opportunity to make major investments in our local infrastructure.€ Fenty said DCBIA companies are likely to snare many of the billions of dollars in private sector projects that include infrastructure and school modernization; federal building projects managed by the General Services Administration (GSA) and other agencies and renewable energy development and information technology contracts related to the Departments of Energy and Health and Human Services.

Due to President Barack Obama€s emphasis on €shovel-ready€ projects, many of the building contracts will go to companies with long-standing ties to Federal and District agencies. Small business contracts will more than likely come through subcontracts with large companies.

DCBIA Executive Vice President Gail Edwards said that the focus of the THEARC event was to €promote and facilitate development East of the River.€ She said that the DCBIA is €interested in neighborhood stabilization.€

Other city officials who participated included Leila Edmonds, director of the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development; Gabe Klein, director of the Department of Transportation; George Hawkins, director of the District€s Department of the Environment and a representative from the Housing Authority. City officials directed business professionals and guests to the Recovery.dc.gov Web site as a resource. In addition, the District's Office of Contracting and Procurement has also launched ocp.dc.gov that offers real-time information about the stimulus funding and transparency for procurement processes.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said the stimulus program will yield funds for home weatherization programs, redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes, Title I education, Pell Grant increases and an $8,000 homebuyer tax credit.

Norton said that €the stimulus money targets low-income folks and seeks to get them training in the support services they need and gives them a seat at the table in this new economy." D.C. government officials admitted that tens of thousands of residents do not have the training necessary to compete for mid-level jobs in construction, maintenance and other professions that pay a living wage.

As the designated community action agency for the District, the United Planning Organization (UPO) in Northwest will receive $16.4 million in Community Services Block Grant Funds (CSBG) from the Recovery Act. Gladys W. Mack, UPO€s chief operating officer, said the funds will be used €to support employment-related and €Green€ initiatives that include job creation and retention, skills development, green technology and training and development and youth education programs.€

Green jobs that are being coordinated by UPO include weatherization, community improvement programs that operate in Ward 8, Career Youth Initiatives, medical training, adult education programs and foreclosure prevention. Mack said that the funds must be used to reduce poverty, revitalize low-income communities and assist low-income families to become self-sufficient. She said UPO currently has housing assistance programs to ensure that homeowners stay in their homes.

The United Planning Organization also has a Request for Proposals (RFP) to obtain proposals from community based organizations in Wards 5, 6 and 8 to provide General Equivalency Diploma (GED) preparation to youth ages 16 to 22. Mack said UPO's Director of Public Awareness can be reached at 202-238-4696 or by e-mail at info@upo.org, for more information.