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State official learns how stimulus money has helped

Date: 9/22/2010

Sept. 22, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- Jeffrey Simon came to Springfield last week to see how funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- commonly known as federal stimulus funds -- were being spent and their impact.

Simon, the director of the Massachusetts Recovery and Reinvestment Office, heard stories of teachers being hired, people earning their GEDs, increased weatherization of homes and early childhood curriculum being developed at a meeting at the New Beginnings Childcare Center operated by Springfield Partners for Community Action (SPCA), the city's anti-poverty agency.

Simon said that he has been traveling around the state one day a week meeting with organizations that have been awarded stimulus funds in order to report back to Gov. Deval Patrick.

"He's a pretty demanding boss," Simon said with a smile. He added Patrick wants the funding to work as "well as it can."

Simon said stimulus funds have been used in a variety of projects, from infrastructure repairs to roads and bridges to education programs.

SPCA was awarded $9.4 million in stimulus funds, of which over $8 million has been used for the agency weatherization program. Joe Kerigan, the director of the program, told Simon that the agency normally weatherizes about 200 homes a year. With the stimulus funding, it has done 1,000 homes and is on target to complete its goal of 2,000 homes over a two-year period.

Kerigan hired six new staff people and is using new contractors.

In the period from July 1, 2009, through Sept. 30, 2010, the agency also hired a credit counselor who worked with 120 people threatened with foreclosure on budget and credit score education. The agency also hired an eviction counselor who has prevented 131 people from becoming homeless.

SPCA funding also went to provide GED classes for 20 residents of public housing administered by Springfield Housing Authority. One of those GED recipients, Jessica Whitehead, was at the meeting with Simon and told him that, thanks to the program, she was now going to continue her education.

The SPCA also worked with Square One, the Early Childhood Center and Giggle Gardens whose teachers were trained in a new comprehensive nutrition curriculum.

For more information on how stimulus funds have been spent in the state, log onto

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