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Stimulus Czar Downplays Report Ranking Florida Last in Per Resident Benefits

By Gina Jordan


Tallahassee, FL – Stimulus funds are still being put to use in Florida. Gina Jordan tells us the state will get more money from the federal government than anticipated, even as a national report finds Florida ranks last in stimulus benefits per person.

Don Winstead is the governor's Economic Stimulus Special Advisor. He says the state is now in line to receive around $21.7-billion total. That's a ten-percent increase over the amount predicted last quarter. A little more than half of the money has been spent so far, primarily on education and transportation.

"The biggest expenditures will be this calendar year and the first half of next calendar year, and then things will begin to taper out. But they won't stop completely for a while."

An analysis by USA Today puts Florida in last place among the states in stimulus funding for each resident. But Winstead says the report doesn't take into account Florida's large number of senior citizens and how much of the money is being used to shore up education. He says there was never an intention to evenly distribute the funds per person.

"You kind of have to think about the demographics of the state when you think through those per capita analyses. I talked with the USA (Today) reporter. He asked me what I thought of that, and I told him I thought a per capita analysis was a pretty spectacularly bad way to look at it."

Winstead continued, "I think in terms of making some judgment about whether or not we're getting our fair share, that a per capita analysis is not the way that I would approach that analysis to try to see if Florida is being treated equitably."

So, given the state's higher than average jobless rate, is the stimulus really helping Florida's economy? Winstead says yes, even though we're not where we want to be.

"The simple fact of the matter is without the stimulus funding, the unemployment rate would have been even higher and the situation would have been even worse. And if you take that money out of education, I think the result in terms of teachers' jobs would have been catastrophic for the state."

The federal dollars heading to Florida could go even higher. The state is again a finalist for the Race to the Top education grant, which would be worth up to $700-million.