A federal stimulus program detailed in Washington yesterday will create thousands of jobs in South Jersey by pouring millions of dollars into building and infrastructure projects, officials said yesterday.
The $25 billion "Recovery Zone Bond" program was rolled out by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, with money going straight to county governments as well as cities with more than 100,000 residents.
For public projects, the money will cover 45 percent of interest on county- and city-issued bonds for construction and economic development. Private projects would be eligible for tax-exempt financing.
Camden County received about $42 million, Burlington $39 million and Gloucester $25 million, said U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D., N.J.). New Jersey received a total of $628 million; Philadelphia received about $22 million.
Because of the help with interest payments, "Burlington County can basically do two roads at the same price or one road at half the price," Andrews said.
Money was doled out based on relative job loss in 2008, with more funds going toward local governments that had been hit the hardest by unemployment. Andrews estimates that the new projects would result in 3,000 to 4,000 new jobs.
"What I like about this program is that it is locally driven," Andrews said.
Though Andrews was excited to announce the new funding for his area, the Tax Policy Center, run by the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, gave the Obama administration's Recovery Zone Bond initiative a C-minus on its Tax Stimulus Report Card.
While the funding is "well-targeted," the center's analysis argued, it "would be unlikely to generate significant new investment" and shifts funds away from investments financed by taxable borrowing.
Direct spending would boost depressed economies faster, the center concluded.
However, decisions about what to do with the money now lie in the hands of county officials.
The expansion of Campbell Soup Co.'s facilities in Camden and a new law enforcement training center in Westampton are just a couple of the major projects that may benefit, but officials did not name any specific targets for the new funding within hours of hearing about it.
Louis R. Cappelli Jr., Camden freeholder director, said he was just happy to find out about the program, which came as a surprise to all three county governments.
"I think one of the more positive aspects of the program is that it gives us a lot of latitude in how the money will be used," he said.
Joseph Donnelly, freeholder director for Burlington County, also praised the bypassing of state and federal bureaucracy in addressing local projects.
"That type of a program will remove one more layer of administration," he said.