As Ocean State Faces Soaring Unemployment, Whitehouse Urges New Stimulus Bill to Create Jobs
Rhode Island's Unemployment Rate Worst in the Nation in September
U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) wrote to Senate leaders today asking that any new economic stimulus legislation include funding for road, bridge, school, and water infrastructure construction projects that would create jobs immediately in our distressed economy. Rhode Island's unemployment rate in September was 8.8 percent, the highest in the nation.
"People are suffering, and Congress must act to stimulate the sagging economy. I believe that the best way to energize the economy is to create jobs," Whitehouse wrote Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV). Whitehouse is a member of the Senate Budget Committee, which sets spending levels for the federal government, and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over road and highway construction.
Whitehouse noted that more than 72,000 highway bridges across the country - including 164 in Rhode Island - are structurally deficient, meaning that they are weight-restricted or require immediate rehabilitation. The Federal Highway Administration has estimated that every $1 billion of federal spending on infrastructure creates 35,000 new jobs, and according to a survey of state agencies, construction on up to $18 billion of transportation projects is "ready to go." Funding these projects could create 630,000 jobs nationwide.
For several months, Democrats in Congress have called for a second stimulus bill to aid families facing financial stress, an idea that gained support Monday from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. In addition to transportation and water infrastructure projects, Whitehouse asked that such legislation promote "green" rehabilitation for schools with maintenance or structural needs, as well as increased funding to help families weather-proof their homes for winter.