|Issue of the Day Posts Tagged ‘American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009’|
Recovery Act Offers New Opportunities for Grant Seekers
Published Monday, August 10th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Education has conducted an analysis of 41 audits and 13 investigations that took place during 2003-2009. The data suggest that there are various weaknesses in the administration of grants by state and local education agencies. Due to the Recovery Act, agencies will receive increases in funding, and the OIG has recommended that Departments enhance the guidance or grant requirements, fraud awareness and prevention.
Also, a new feature on www.grants.gov will help users find and apply for all grant funding available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This includes a series of webinars and links including topics like Introduction to Grants.gov and the Recovery Act, Finding Recovery Act Opportunities and Registration to Submit Recovery Act Opportunities. All in an effort to release Recovery funding quicker and create jobs faster.
Federal research and grant funding for all but the life sciences and engineering have remained relatively steady since 1980, increasing only with the rate of inflation. The life sciences have gained the most and had spiked after 2000 to reach $30 billion as of 2004, declining to $27 billion in 2007. The engineering sector has not lost any steam, gaining in the last 10 years to hit $10 billion. With the Recovery Act, many fields will see more funding, although it will be a while before the figures are published and results are analyzed.
Baltimore Gas and Electric, Co. a subsidiary of Constellation Energy Group, Inc. has unveiled a plan for a smart grid program that will replace the need for a new power plant. The utility is planning to install 2 million “smart” electric meters in customers’ homes and businesses. The meters will help the customers reduce their energy consumption at peak demand with rebates to compensate. The program will cost $500 million, of which consumers will pay through a surcharge added onto their bill — $1.24 per month for residential and $3.00 for commercial consumers. BGE is also seeking $200 million from the Department of Energy and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to reduce the charges passed on to consumers. There is $4.5 billion set aside in the stimulus package for new smart grid programs. Also, a “smart” pricing system will give consumers rebates for using less power at peak times. The program could launch by the end of 2009 and finish by 2014, with the new pricing system in place by 2012. Savings are estimated at $2.6 billion and 500 megawatts over the life of the program.
Since 1973 our consumption of energy per person has been relatively steady at about 95838 kilowatt hours annually, at an average cost of $4300. In that time, the price per kilowatt hour has reached nearly $0.10 for residential consumers, $0.95 for commercial consumers and $0.62 for industrial consumers, all of which increased relatively $0.02 since 2000.
Some relief has finally come to those struggling to pay off those student loans. New rules allow for borrowers to apply the plan to their remaining loan amount as of Wednesday, July 1st. Highlights include an income-based repayment plan that considers income and family size; also borrowers can set their monthly loan payment at 15% of their annual adjusted gross income. Plus, borrowers who make less than $16,245 — poverty level — would not be required to make any payments on their federal loans as long as their income remained at that level. Public Service also offers some relief as well in the form of loan forgiveness after 10 years of service. The Government increased the Pell Grants payouts from $619 to $5,350 — thanks to the Stimulus Act — for the 2009-2010 school year, decreased loan origination fees to 1% next July and cut interest rates from 6% to 5.6%.
The action is a result of several factors not the least of which includes skyrocketing tuition, which has reached $20,000 for a Private school and near $5,000 for public school in 2007. For 45% of Public college students and upwards to 60-75% of Private college students, the rise in tuition has resulted in loans to cover the cost of an education. This has lead to an annual Federal Assistance borrowing of $92,484 million and places the US second in Higher Education spending among developed countries.
From the state of Vermont comes the Vermont Energy Act of 2009, which will create and regulate new 10-20 year contracts—25 years for solar projects—for the sale of power produced by owners of small renewable energy facilities. So-called “Feed-in Tariffs” are used to encouraged the installation of grid-connected renewable energy systems by both individuals and businesses by making such systems a profitable investment and guaranteeing income that can help attract financing. Currently, Vermont’s Feed-In systems are at 2.2 megawatts capacity; the act sets a cap of 50 megawatts for such contracts. The linchpin for Governor Jim Douglas was the Act’s provision that the Vermont Public Services Board adjust the preliminary standard rates—varying by method of generation—set by the legislature.
Renewable energy is a priority policy issue for the Obama Administration. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides over $45 billion to encourage renewable energy production, which includes $4.5 billion for the creation of a smart grid to handle today’s generation needs. Renewable energy generation accounts for 7% of our total generation output in 2008; this is a product of a revival in renewable energy after a 12% drop in net generation in 2000. Sources of renewable energy include biogenic waste, geothermal, hydroelectric, solar and wind.
According to a United Nations report, hunger in South Asia has reached levels not seen in 40 years as prices of food and fuel have risen and the global economy slows. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) states that 100 million more people are going hungry compared to two years ago. The areas most affected are Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, all of which are seeing upheavals and conflict. The World Bank states that three quarters of the population or 1.2 billion live on $2 a day and nearly 400 million (including children) are chronically hungry. Factors for the rising numbers include declining wages at home, a drop in monies sent home from abroad, and high prices that force people to borrow money at high interest. Children are being pulled out of school and sent to work; income is being spent on food but not on other essentials; and women are forgoing food for families.
The report suggests that the two biggest countries, India and Pakistan, reduce their defense budgets to allow for an increase in social spending, plus the use of fiscal stimulus programs. Foreign aid is also mentioned as a remedy. Big spenders like Norway and the Netherlands have decreased foreign aid funds, yet after several years of decline, the United States has increased its foreign aid in 2008. The FY 2010 budget promises a further increase in foreign aid and assistance.
The Rate of Savings Gets a Boost from Frugal Consumers
Published Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
According to the Commerce Department, income growth is far outpacing spending as the personnel savings rate skyrocketed to 5.7%, the highest since February 1995. The level of savings has reached $620.2 billion, the most since January 1959. American incomes rose by 0.5%, which follows two straight months of declines. The increase in April is a result of tax cuts and benefit payments from President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Wages and salaries were flat in April. Consumer spending has increased on services by 0.3% in April, which was up from 0.1% in March. Spending on big ticket items and ‘non-durables’ decreased by 0.6%, yet spending on services increased by 0.3% in April.
In 1952, the national savings level was 8.5 times that of the national level of liabilities, yet that level of savings has not been seen since. In 1968, the ratio trickled to 5.75 times the national liabilities; the rate rollercoastered to 3.15 in 2007. Accordingly, the percentage of Americans who are in debt has risen to 76.4% in 2004. After the new bankruptcy laws in 2005, the number of non-business and business filings was cut by 75% and 50% respectively, yet from 2006 to 2008 the number of filings for both have doubled to 1,074,255 and non-business filings reaching 43,546.
Manufacturing’s Slip in Contributions to GDP in 2008
Published Friday, May 8th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
According the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Real GDP (a macroeconomic measure of the size of the economy adjusted for price changes and inflation) decreased 6.1% between January and March of this year. This follows a decrease of 6.3% in fourth quarter 2008. The slightly smaller decrease in GDP reflected the upturn in consumer spending for goods and a larger decrease in imports. These were offset by larger decreases in inventory investment and in nonresidential structures as well as a downturn in federal government spending. Manufacturing saw a decrease in non-durable inventories, as well as non-motor-vehicle merchant wholesale and retail inventories. Given the timing of the passage of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) and the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), it is likely that the effect on the GDP was small, if any, for the first 3 months of 2009.
The contribution by Manufacturing to the GDP has increased at a steady pace since 1991 with only a sharp decrease in 2000-2001. The sector did not resume its rise until 2004; from there it increased slower and rockier than before the 2000 dip. By 2006-2007, while not as sharp as the 2000 decrease, manufacturing began to slow and has decreased from $1618.6 in 2007 to $1574.3 billion in 2008.
As of Thursday night, Swine Flu has infected 91 people and one death has been attributed to the virus. According to the CDC, Swine Flu has reared its snout frequently in the past 30 years with varying intensity. From 2005 to January 2009, a total of 12 human cases of swine flu were detected in the U.S. with no deaths. In 1976, an outbreak of Swine Flu in Fort Dix, New Jersey caused more than 200 cases with serious illness in several people and one death. A singular event in 1988 occurred when a pregnant woman in Wisconsin died from pneumonia after being infected with Swine Flu. In response to the current outbreak, the CDC has implemented its emergency response. However, the outbreak has become political as the parties argue over $780 million removed from the stimulus bill for pandemic preparedness.
The CDC’s efforts and that of the nation’s health care system have made a concerted effort to cut the number of cases of influenza in the US. Influenza and Pneumonia, during the last decade, represented the 8th greatest cause of death in the US — 72,507 deaths out of 2,425,901 in 2006. Over the course of the last decade, the rate of deaths from all types of the influenza and pneumonia has steadily reduced from 23.4 deaths per every 100,000 people in 1999 to 18.8 in 2006.
Parts of North Dakota sat underwater Thursday as rising waters from melting snow swelled the banks of the Red River. Experts predict a historic 41-foot crest by Saturday. The existing dikes, designed for a maximum 39ft crest, may be unable to contain the river’s swell. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the last flood near the predicted crest was in 1997 at 39.6ft and in 1897 at 40.1ft in Fargo, the Red River’s most populated city. The Red River filters into the Missouri River, and nearly 4,000 people were evacuated Tuesday from an area near Bismarck.
In the new 2010 fiscal year budget, up for vote in Congress, President Obama supports the safe and reliable operation and maintenance of key existing water resources infrastructure. The budget funding amounts to $5.1 billion and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides $4.6 billion for infrastructure and Army Corps of Engineers discretionary funding. From the Red River, the water empties into the Missouri river, then flowing into the Mississippi river down to New Orleans where, after Katrina, the $15 billion upgrade, scheduled for completion in 2011, is only 20% complete.
Public Transit Use on the Rise as Miles Trend Downward
Published Wednesday, March 18th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
According to the Department of Transportation and the American Public Transportation Association, the number of miles traveled by vehicles in the United States fell by 3.6% in 2008, the number of trips taken on public transit increased by 4.0%. The total estimated number of miles driven in 2008 is 2.922 trillion, down from 3.030 trillion in 2007. This is a reduction of nearly 115 billion miles. The biggest drop was in the rural areas, as driving in these areas dropped by 4.2%, followed by urban areas which dropped by 3.2%. The increase in public transport usage may be attributed to the gradual 14 month decrease in miles driven by U.S. drivers.
Overall, transit ridership reached an overall 52 year high as U.S. residents took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation. In fact, light rail increased the greatest at 8.3% due partly to new and expanded services in Charlotte, North Carolina, and restored services in New Orleans, Louisiana. As for the other mass transit modes, Commuter Rail increased by 4.7%, subway ridership increased by 3.5%, bus ridership increased by 3.9%, and on-demand transit increased by 5.9%. Many of the transportation vehicles have not actually risen with demand, only the Bus services have slowly increased its fleet. As a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the President has given $8.4 billion to invest in public transit “to move us towards our long term goals of energy security and a better quality of life.”