The SJVCEO has been busy lately. Submitting and servicing grants and getting ready to put American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money to work. Rollie Smith, field office director for U.S. Housing and Urban Development in Fresno and SJVCEO board member, thought we ought to get the word out. When the White House put out a call for reports on how ARRA money was creating jobs, we wrote up a short passage and sent it, via Rollie, to Vice President Joe Biden's office. Over the weekend, the vice president announced the creation of about 600,000 jobs in the fourth quarter of last year directly as a result of Stimulus spending. We hope to add to that total soon.
Here's what the SJVCEO submitted to Biden's office for possible use as an anecdote in future releases:
Huron, a tight-knit community of about 6,300 in the drought-stricken San Joaquin Valley, recorded a December unemployment rate of 37.9 percent. It's a community suffering like many across America. But this year was especially bad for Huron. The water shortage combined with the recession and pummeled the local economy. Families are hungry. Once proud men have resorted to selling homemade sweet-bread door to door just to bring in a few dollars. Any chances of a recovery would appear grim. But this week brought a bit of good news. Stimulus money will be paying for energy retrofits at the city's lone elementary school, which serves more than 800 mostly poor, mostly minority farmworker students. The savings in electricity may free up cash to paint, fix and generally spruce up the aging school. Huron Elementary is the beneficiary of the city's direct Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant allocation. The funds will be able to replace two original 1970s-vintage AC units, put in programmable thermostats in every classroom and replace a good amount of lighting. The city, which laid off many of its employees to cope with the recession, may not have been able to access the American Recover and Reinvestment Act money had it not had help. Huron is one of 36 jurisdictions that joined the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Partnership, an alliance between the nonprofit San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. The staff at the SJVCEO put together the grant applications and helped community officials with energy audits. During a recent audit at Huron Elementary, a couple of teachers doing classwork late in the day asked what a Partnership worker was doing when he counted lights. "Energy efficiency courtesy of Stimulus money. Thank Obama," he said. They grinned. Without the help of the Partnership and SJVCEO, many Valley jurisdictions wouldn't be seeing a penny of Stimulus money. The organization, in addition to applying for about $4.1 million in direct EECBG allocations, is also applying on the cities' behalf for more in competitive funds to continue the energy efficiency work, expanding the scope into the communities. The initial grant is expected to produce about 45 jobs, but it is hoped continued focus on energy efficiency in the Valley will bring far more.