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Public Statements

The Stimulus

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. NELSON of Florida. Mr. President, the question that has been postured before the Senate is, What has the stimulus bill done? It has some fancy name--the recovery act--but, in effect, it is known as the stimulus bill. It was an expensive bill. With the country in the economic doldrums that we have been in, it was hoped it was going to get money out there into the economy and provide a kind of electric shock therapy and stimulate the economy to get it moving again; that it would turn the engine of the economy and, therefore, as those dollars in the stimulus bill got injected into the economy and it turned over, it was going to create jobs.

Indeed, the number of jobs that it was expected the stimulus was going to create was something like 2 1/2 million. So the question is, Is it stimulating the economy? Well, a few minutes ago, the CEO of the Shands Health Care Center at the University of Florida was in my office. He told me the story of how the Shands Hospital in Jacksonville--there are a number of these Shands Hospitals; it is a true medical center complex over several cities--was short some $35 million, and he didn't know what he was going to do and how that was going to affect their operation--possibly the shutdown of major portions of that hospital.

Remember that one part of the stimulus bill is that we were putting out money into Medicaid to help the States, and there were States that had not been doing their part on Medicaid, which is a joint State operation--generally with a funding formula of about 55 percent Federal, 45 percent State. A lot of the States hadn't been putting their share in, or they had been constricting the eligibility for the poor and the disadvantaged to have access to health care for Medicaid. Well, with the beneficence of the stimulus bill, we put a lot of money back into the States. In Florida's case, it was about $4.5 billion, just for Medicaid. It went from a funding formula--in Florida's case--of 55 to 45 for the 2-year period of the stimulus, to a funding formula of 67 percent Federal, 33 percent State. That has allowed him to stop the major abrupt halt of that hospital in Jacksonville, FL.

Let me give another example. The big county hospital in Miami--Jackson Memorial Hospital--is a similar case of about a $45 million whack that was going to occur because of the State of Florida constricting its Medicaid funding. The stimulus bill for Florida allowed that additional money to flow and, therefore, that hospital will not have its services terminated for a good part of the medically needy as well as the disabled.

Another example: In my State, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded over $100 million in stimulus funds to jump-start crucial Everglades restoration projects, such as the Picayune Strand and the Site 1 Reservoir construction. When you combine that with an additional $140 million in stimulus money for other projects such as water quality improvements down in the Florida Keys, then the spending in Florida is going to create about 2,000 direct jobs and 5,000 indirect jobs. Overall, the stimulus bill is going to create over 200,000 jobs in the State of Florida.

Another example: Seminole County School District. Seminole County is to the north of Orlando. It is a major bedroom community for the metro Orlando area. Well, they had a plan to eliminate 139 teachers. Because of the stimulus bill, they reversed that plan.

Clay County, to the south of Jacksonville, in northeast Florida--another bedroom community for the metro Jacksonville area. It will bring back 26 elementary school teachers who had been laid off.

Another example: I am just taking a few examples. Miami, Dade County. It has one of the largest highway improvement projects in our State--the Palmetto Expressway. It has been under construction continuously since 1994 because of the mass of people who utilize that arterial roadway. Now they are going to be able to complete that and put hundreds of people to work.

Another example: Northeast Florida. The military complex in Jacksonville--the Jacksonville Naval Hospital and Kings Bay and Mayport Naval Station. The $40 million of stimulus funding is going to be spent over the next several years for improvements for those hospitals and at the air station and at the Kings Bay submarine base, which means architecture, construction, and engineering jobs on top of expanded hospital facilities and energy efficient upgrades.

Another example: St. Johns County, St. Augustine, FL--the oldest continuous settlement in the United States--1565. We are going to celebrate the 450 year anniversary. We have 42 years on the English settlement in Jamestown, VA. Not 1607, Jamestown; but 1565, St. Augustine. Well, their school system was going to cut teacher and staff salaries and force them to take unpaid days. Now they are going to get an infusion of an additional $9 million this year and another $9 million next year so these cuts won't occur.

Going over to the West Coast of Florida--Tampa. The Tampa International Airport. It is going to create 250 new jobs using $8 million from the stimulus bill to go out there and improve a taxiway on one of the major runways. This is a job that would not have been done had it not been for this bill.

I will give one final example. Go back to north Florida. We have a huge forestry industry in Florida. But as we have seen, Mother Nature has not been kind in bringing us droughts. When a drought occurs, the forest becomes a tinderbox. When a match is struck or a lightning bolt strikes, the forest erupts into an enormous fire that becomes a contagion that can rage out of control and impinge on urbanized areas. Well, the Florida Department of Forestry is putting contractors to work on fire mitigation projects in high-risk communities using a $900 stimulus grant.

It is helping in my State, and I suspect it is helping in all the other 49 States that are represented on the floor of the Senate.

I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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