North Carolina shortchanged

July 9, 2009 2:51:05 PM PDT
North Carolina has some of the highest unemployment rates in the country, so you'd think we'd be at the head of the line for federal stimulus money. After all, the whole idea of the federal stimulus plan was to get people back to work.

"If you create a federal program intended to save or create jobs in distressed areas, it makes sense that the federal dollars should be mostly in those distressed areas," offered John Hood with the John Locke Foundation.

Congress passed a massive $787 billion stimulus package this spring, but an Eyewitness News investigation shows it's being spent disproportionately on states with some of the lowest unemployment rates.

North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue says she's not surprised.

"There's something wrong and somebody needs to focus and fix it," she said.

Records show the biggest recipients of stimulus money are large western states with small populations and low unemployment rates. Through the month of May, the state with the most stimulus money per resident was Alaska.

The federal government has spent $1,500 per resident there. The Dakotas, Wyoming and Montana round out the top five. They all got more than $1,000 per resident, but North Dakota has the nation's lowest unemployment rate.

North Carolina by comparison - with an 11.1 percent unemployment rate - got just $538 per person. Only Florida fared worse.

"There is no understandable reason in my mind that we will soon be the 7th largest state in America. Yet we continue to receive funding from the federal government that's parallel to what we were in the 50's, 60's, and 70's," said Perdue.

Congress wanted to move the stimulus money quickly and used existing funding formulas, most of which do not account for unemployment. Some think jobless rates and personal income loss should have been considered.

"They didn't do that. They just grabbed for the quickest way to shovel money out the door so they could claim to be responding to a recession that people were worried about," said Hood. "The stimulus program was about politics."


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