When Congress passed the $787 billion recovery package in February, our nation's economy was in its deepest slump since the Great Depression. As an effort to avoid another economic collapse, the President put forward a plan to give our economy an immediate jumpstart and set the nation on the course toward long-term growth. By reinvesting in carefully-targeted programs to improve our infrastructure, education, health care, and technology, Congress and the Administration laid the groundwork to preserve or create 3 to 4 million jobs over the next two years.
Last week Congressman Andrews called a press conference to announce the effects that the Stimulus bill has had on our communities so far. To date, nearly $360 million in Stimulus funds have been allocated to our region by way of grants, direct payments, loans, bonds, and tax cuts. Andrews stated that although only six months have passed since the enactment of the federal stimulus package, there are strong economic indicators that the plan is working locally and helping thousands of families and businesses here in South Jersey.
Among the projects being funded, an $81 million investment for resurfacing and improving Route 295 in Gloucester and Camden Counties is the recovery plan's highest investment in South Jersey. The second largest project is a $25 million initiative geared to clean up hazardous waste material at Gloucester and Camden Cities' Welsbach & General Gas Mantle Sites, where the production of thousands of incandescent lights at the turn of the 20th century has contaminated the soil in local communities. Local school districts have received a near $50 million boost in federal aid to help relieve the strain on their operating budgets and support hiring and capital improvements.
Rep. Andrews stated that while America's economy is still badly broken and millions continue to struggle to meet their needs, recent data has indicated that our economy is showing signs of life. Congressman Andrews cited several economic indicators that point towards exceptional growth over the six moths, crediting the President's recovery package for much of the recent trends. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor indicate that about 6,000 more residents of South Jersey found their way back into the workforce since the enactment of the Stimulus bill. Additionally, housing and consumer markets have experienced record growth and it appears that the economy has started a new trajectory. Since the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act was enacted, the average number of foreclosure filings has decreased by over 22%, while home and auto sales appear have increased largely due to the Stimulus bill's tax credits for new purchasers.
While our region's economic recovery will not occur overnight, the Stimulus bill's near $360 million investment in South Jersey has begun to set our region on the course of economic prosperity. Congressman Andrews continues to support legislation like the ARRA that invests federal dollars where they are needed most while working to get our economy back on the course of long-term growth.