Hardin County to benefit from federal stimulus

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By John Friedlein



HARDIN COUNTY — The influx of high paying jobs expected with the realignment of Fort Knox will not be the only federal shot in the arm for the local economy.

President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan will bring in millions of dollars in a variety of forms — from roadwork to education to home improvement.

Specifically, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will, according to preliminary estimates, send roughly $1.5 million to the Lincoln Trail Workforce Investment Board for job related programs in an eight-county area that includes Hardin.

Of that, $565,000 will go toward an environmentally friendly summer work program for youth ages 16-24, said Sherry Johnson, who implements programs for the Workforce Investment Board. These jobs will be in either the public or private sector and administered by a separate group, such as a school district.

Johnson said she wants the groups that bid on the initiative to come up with innovative ideas of how community service programs can become more green.

“We want it to be meaningful, lasting and something that can be replicated in other communities,” she said.

Also, funds will go to help the greater workforce, including people who have lost jobs during this deep recession. Examples of possible assistance include tuition help for those attending technical college or a workshop to aid job seekers who want to learn how to write resumes, Johnson said.

She stressed the importance of allotting the money soon, especially because summer is approaching.

In addition to employment aid, local schools will receive money for current programs and improvements to technology infrastructure, said Nannette Johnston, superintendent of Hardin County Schools. Her district, for example, could receive an additional $4.87 million.

While the county district has not decided exactly which initiatives will benefit from this one-time funding, state Deputy Budget Director John Hicks said stimulus money over the next two years will go to Kentucky schools with the greatest free and reduced lunch populations. Summer and after-school programs may benefit, as will those under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The stimulus in Kentucky takes a multi-pronged approach to the recession. Besides creating jobs, the more than $3 billion is intended to soften the blow of spending cuts, Hicks said. Most of it will flow through existing programs.

The stimulus sent direct funds to the state’s larger cities, such as Louisville and Lexington, Hicks said.

Elizabethtown Finance Director Steve Park said there could be some funds left over for small cities, but he isn’t hopeful.

Stimulus money, however, is expected to fund several road projects — such as safety improvements to U.S. 31W at the Ring Road intersection.

The area also may  benefit from money spent on statewide programs, including:

  •  Millions of dollars for water projects;
  •  Competitive funds for initiatives such as expanding broadband to underserved areas;
  •  $52 million for public housing;
  •  $73 million to weatherize low-income homes, a task which will be “very job intensive,” Hicks said;
  • A 13.6 percent increase in the value of food stamps;
  •  A $25 bump in weekly unemployment benefits;
  •  A one-time $250 payment for those receiving Supplemental Security Income and veterans benefits.
  •  An increase in the Pell Grant student financial aid program’s maximum award; and
  •  A more than $900 million increase in Medicaid funding.

The bulleted totals are for the entire state.

John Friedlein can be reached at (270) 505-1746.