The Islamic Post Blog

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: Monumental Legislation by ipinfo2
March 25, 2009, 5:51 am
Filed under: Business/Economy, March Volume 2009, National

By Raheemah Atif
Islamic Post Staff Writer

History was made last month in Denver Colorado, at an economic summit sponsored by the Obama administration, where President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Originating with the President’s vision and call for sweeping legislation, the bill is the political offspring of intense bi-partisan negotiations, and  provides a hefty $787 billion dollar infusion into the sagging U.S. economy.
“What I am signing is a balanced plan with a mix of tax cuts and investments. It is a plan that’s been put together without earmarks or the usual pork barrel spending. And it is a plan that will be implemented with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability,” President Obama said before signing the bill into law. “And we expect you, the American people, to hold us accountable for the results. That is why we have created –so every American can go online and see how their money is being spent.”
The general purpose of the bill is to stimulate the nation’s economic lifeline by providing funds for federal, state, and local/regional governments, with some funds eventually also reaching small businesses, and private citizens to help them weather the financial tidal wave whose ripples began when the subprime mortgage industry exploded.  Vice President Biden, who accompanied the President to the energy summit, elaborated on just a few of the goals of the ARRA, “Starting today, our administration will be working day and night to provide more aid for the unemployed, create immediate jobs, building our roads and our bridges, make long-term investments in a smarter energy grid, and so much more.”
The conference report submitted to the House of Representatives in February is quoted in the Congressional Record as stating the general aim of the bill as “making supplemental appropriations for job preservation and creation, infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and science, assistance to the unemployed, and state and local fiscal (monetary) stabilization.”  Many states, including California and Tennessee, face serious budget deficits requiring major cuts in programs across the board, including social services, education, and lost jobs across an array of state and regional governmental sectors; the ARRA will funnel monies directly to states to distribute as earmarked by the bill. President Obama also confirmed the intention of the federal government to remain fully open regarding the disposal and use of the recovery bill funds.
“With a recovery package of this size comes a responsibility to assure every taxpayer that we are being careful with the money they work so hard to earn. And that’s why I’m assigning a team of managers to ensure that the precious dollars we’ve invested are being spent wisely and well; and …we’re going to hold governors and local officials who receive the money to the same high standard.”
Highlights of the Bill
Assistance for low-income citizens, unemployed – The bill will provide funds to states for  unemployment benefits extensions, to help provide medical coverage for the unemployed through Cobra healthcare plans, and job training programs; funds are also earmarked to help states with their Medicaid and food stamps programs, temporary welfare payments to needy citizens, as well as funds for weatherization programs, home heating subsidies, and community action agencies (these provide emergency assistance for utility/rent payments and other services), payment increases will also be scheduled for recipients of SSI, veterans on pensions and disability payments, retired state employees and railroad workers.
Education –the bill provides funds to assist states in meeting budget and to head-off cuts in education; funds are earmarked for Head Start programs, special education, to increase teachers’ salaries, as well as for increase in the Pell Grants by $400, for the continuation of the No child Left Behind program, and for school modernization.
Security –funds are delegated for state governments for overall security, hiring of police officers and the purchase of equipment, security equipment at airports and U. S. seaports.
Department of Defense –allocated funds are for use in building and repair of Defense Department buildings, maintenance of National Guard facilities, increase of claims processing staff, medical care for military and family members, and housing for service members.
Taxes – the bill provides for numerous areas of tax reform, including a $500 per person/$1000 per couple tax credit for 2009 and 2010, with about $20 less in withholding deducted from workers’ paychecks towards the end of 2009. Included is provision to prevent very wealthy citizens from avoiding payment of taxes due to deductions and other superfluous tax breaks. The Earned Income Credit will be increased for 2009; another reform will give more low-income citizens expanded access to the Child Tax Credit. Significant changes were made in the areas of college tuition refunds, home-buying credits, home energy credits, and credits for small businesses that lost money during 2009.
President Obama closed his post-signing address by reiterating the challenge before government and the American people as well. “None of this will be easy. The road to recovery will not be straight. We will make progress and there may be some slippage along the way. It will demand courage and discipline. It will demand a new sense of responsibility that’s been missing from Wall Street all the way to Washington. There will be hazards and reverses. But I have every confidence that if we are willing to continue doing the critical work that must be done –by each of us, by all of us– then we will leave this struggling economy behind us, and come out on the other side, more prosperous as a people.”


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