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Faced with mounting unemployment figures and criticisms that the administration’s economic stimulus plan is moving too slowly, President Barack Obama announced the Roadmap to Recovery plan Monday that he says will create or save 600,000 jobs in the next 100 days.
The president said that while the 345,000 jobs lost in May constitute too many, the month also produced the lowest job loss figures in eight months, which he believes is an indication that the administration is moving in the right direction.
Despite Obama’s optimism, unemployment reached a 25-year-high at 9.5% in May, prompting much finger pointing from Republicans who have for months charged that the stimulus plan is simply an excuse to increase the size of government.
“The biggest concern that I have moving forward is that the toll that job losses take on individual families and communities can be self-reinforcing,” said Obama. “People lose jobs, they pull back on spending, that means businesses don’t have customers, and suddenly you start seeing more job layoffs.”
The recovery roadmap includes 10 initiatives that aim to “build momentum and accelerate job growth” in the stimulus plan’s second 100 days. Vice President Joseph Biden told reporters that he had asked cabinet secretaries to come up with projects that they could guarantee would be up and running within that time period.
They secretaries have pledged funding for 1,129 health centers to expand services to 300,000 patients; 135,000 jobs in education; 125,000 summer youth jobs; 2,300 construction and rehabilitation projects at military facilities; and the payment of salaries and benefits for 5,000 law enforcement officers for the first three years of a five-year commitment, if states will pay for the last two. Biden says the administration is “hopeful and quite certain” that the economy will be in recovery in a few years and states will be able to pay these salaries on their own.
Other projects include cleanup work at 20 Superfund sites; 200 new waste and water systems in rural areas; improvements at 90 veterans medical centers in 38 states; and rehabilitation and improvement projects at 90 airports and on 1,500 highways.
Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) says that American voters will continue to be patient and any frustrations with the stimulus are likely more targeted at the state legislatures distributing the funds.
“As a matter of public policy, it’s a good, smart step to lay out new markers and goals today because we have every reason to try to make this money work in as targeted a way as possible to reach communities that frankly don’t normally get anywhere near their share of federal dollars,” said Davis.