Today, President Obama will tout $3.4 billion in government grants for projects to improve the nation's infrastructure for electrical transmission. The initiative is a pretty good use of a portion of the $787 stimulus package passed back in February. I just wonder: what took them so long?
Here's a little detail about the announcement, via Bloomberg:
The grants, ranging in size from $400,000 to $200 million, will be used to develop and install "smart-grid" technology to make electricity transmission more reliable and aid the transmission of energy generated from sources like wind and solar power.
This strikes me as a good initiative. Stimulus money should be spent on these kinds of projects. It's infrastructure, so it should create some jobs. This particular endeavor will also improve the economy in the long run, as better electronic efficiency paired with more renewable energy will reduce energy costs for consumers and businesses.
But it's nearly November. The stimulus was passed way back in February. Since then, unemployment has climbed from 8.1% to 9.8% last month (probably higher today). Getting these projects going earlier might have saved some of those 2.7 million jobs lost since February, or helped some unemployed Americans find work months sooner.
Complaining about how long it's taking the government to distribute stimulus cash isn't a new criticism. But today's news on these infrastructure projects demonstrates the problem with unusual clarity. Why couldn't these grants have been handed out six months sooner? That still would have provided two months to figure out who they should be awarded to. While it's nice to see the right kind of stimulus spending, it should have come much more quickly.