Stimulus plan funds Rhode Island shoe store, Virginia dairy

Isaac Brekken/AP
President Barack Obama promised an 'unrelenting day-by-day effort to fight for economic recovery on all fronts' in a speech Wednesday at Nellis Air Force Base outside Las Vegas.

Up to now, stabilizing the US economy has been about bigness – big ideas backed by big money, like saving the banking system or American auto manufacturing.

But after 100 days of President Obama's $787 billion stimulus package, it's clear that most of the efforts are small-scale and personal. That's heartwarming. It's also sure to raise questions about how the projects were vetted and why some businesses were picked over others.

For example: Of the more than $112 billion of stimulus money already obligated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a new White House report released Wednesday pinpointed 100 projects that received aid. Federal funding:

• Secured a $2 million grant for Storey Brothers Trucking, which allowed the struggling family business in Cumberland, Maine, to keep its 19 employees busy upgrading their town's sewer system.

• Gave Jamiel’s Shoe World, Rhode Island’s largest family-owned shoe store, a second chance at survival with a $400,000 loan mostly backed by the Small Business Administration.

• Allowed David and Katherine Pyle to lease a dairy operation in Augusta County, Va., buy cows, and set up shop.

• Appointed Zeglin’s Home TV & Appliance in Davenport, Iowa, the job of replacing stoves in local public housing units with American-made Whirlpool appliances.

• Contracted Rapiscan Systems in California to develop and install $2.8 million worth of advanced baggage-screening systems in some 50 airports across the country.

"As we worked to compile the report, all of us were struck by the very personal stories that we came across," wrote Ed DeSeve, the White House coordinator of recovery implementation, in a blog post. "We learned that recovery is about more than just projects. It’s about helping people who have been hit hard by the worst recession of our lifetimes."

This process is not unusual. The government daily contracts businesses to do all sorts of things. The White House says it has vetted all the projects, many of which were suggested by states and localities rather than the Obama administration.

Still, the unprecedented scale of spending, its novelty, and the administration's openness about where the money is going is likely to raise questions about the process of picking winners in the new economy.

More such projects are in store, said President Obama Wednesday, who promised an "unrelenting day-by-day effort to fight for economic recovery on all fronts."

"We are just at the start of this recovery act," he told servicemen and women at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas. "We are going to keep on going through this year and into next year because we are going to make sure that not only are we putting people back to work but we are laying the foundation for a better economy."


Will this level of government intervention be the norm for the new economy? Comment below or Twitter us.

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