By DANIEL SUDDEATH
Clark County and New Albany stand to collect a chunk of the more than $42 million in federal stimulus funds reserved for Indiana energy-efficiency projects.
Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced $3.2 billion in investments in U.S. cities and counties Thursday. Clark was selected to receive $438,900 of Indiana’s share and New Albany $165,900.
“These investments will save taxpayer dollars and create jobs in communities around the country,” Biden said. “Local leaders will have the flexibility in how they put these resources to work, but we will hold them accountable for making the investments quickly and wisely to spur the local economy and cut energy use.”
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will provide the stimulus money for the energy projects.
The money flows directly to the city and county governments and is dispersed from there. A spokeswoman with the U.S. Department of Energy said local governments selected for the funding must now submit applications for energy-efficient and conservation projects before they will receive money.
Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., voted in favor of the stimulus package in the U.S. House and said he’s satisfied with how the funds are being allocated.
“We’ve seen money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act flowing directly into our communities over the past few weeks,” Hill said.
“I’m very pleased with the rate at which these funds are being distributed, particularly for programs such as this that stress energy efficiency and conservation.”
As officials tout stimulus money as a way to spur job growth, Indiana’s unemployment remains on the rise. The jobless rate nudged to 9.4 percent in February, up slightly from 9.3 percent in January, according to the U.S. Labor Bureau.
The national unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in February. The Louisville metro unemployment rate in January soared to 9.4 percent, up from 7.6 percent in December.
“We continue to suffer declines in nonfarm payroll jobs. However, some of these losses are beginning to decelerate,” said Uric Dufrene, Sanders chair of the Indiana University Southeast Business Department. Still, Dufrene warned Indiana is nearing a jobless rate double the amount from a year ago, as the February 2008 unemployment mark was 5 percent.
— Reports from the Associated Press contributed to this story.
SO YOU KNOW
• Indiana received a promise of $42,380,100 of stimulus money reserved for energy and conservation projects. Clark County will receive $438,900, and New Albany $165,900. At more than $2.9 million, Lake County is set to receive the most energy stimulus funding.