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Stimulus Money Trickles Through Ohio

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Stimulus Money Trickles Through Ohio


Stimulus Money Trickles Through Ohio

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Ohio is one state that's had a lot of trouble translating the money from President Obama's stimulus package into new jobs. And a poll indicates that Ohioans are holding the president accountable for that. A Quinnipiac University poll shows that President Obama's approval rating in Ohio is at 49 percent, sharply down from a 62 percent approval rating in May. Even fewer Ohioans approve of how he's handling the economy.

Here to give us the sense of the mood in Ohio's Connie Schultz. She is a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. And she joins us from member station WCPN in Cleveland. Welcome to the show, Connie.

Ms. CONNIE SCHULTZ (Pulitzer Prize Winner, Cleveland Plain Dealer): Thank you.

HANSEN: We want to start with a clip from NPR's MORNING EDITION last week. Senator Sherrod Brown, who happens to be your husband…

Ms. SCHULTZ: Right.

HANSEN: …said this in response to a question from Steve Inskeep.

(Soundbite of clip, "Morning Edition")

Senator SHERROD BROWN (Democrat, Ohio): I think people in the House and Senate and most of the public is thinking, in particularly my state, whether Dayton, Akron or Cleveland that let's see how this stimulus is working. Once more money is in the pipeline, especially in the next couple of quarters then we'll reassess. But I don't think you make a decision on this stimulus yet when this one is not played even 50 percent out yet.

HANSEN: But it sounds like Ohioans aren't willing to wait a few months, at least according to this poll. They seemed to be assessing the impact of the stimulus money now. Connie, do you think that the poll is really an accurate reflection of how people in Ohio feel right now?

Ms. SCHULTZ: I do. To be really honest with you, you know, in anticipation of this, of our conversation today. I just started asking everybody I saw, you know. And uniformly, I mean, the language is so similar and the responses are saying, I don't see it. And what's interesting to me is so many of them are talking about unemployment. I talked to a guard at the front desk building, and I was coming in earlier today. And he said, where's unemployment rate? Why is it still going up? Why hasn't it come down yet? I think part of it, though, too is Ohioans felt so beaten before the recession really hit. You know, The Great Recession as we we're calling it now because we're already in a recession. And by 2006 we had lost more than 250,000 manufacturing jobs.

HANSEN: So what is Ohio been doing with this stimulus money?

Ms. SCHULTZ: Well, there have been projects going on. In Zanesville there's a weatherization program where they've hired a 100 workers, let's take a little bit more than 100. They've already trained them how to weatherize homes of low-income families and senior citizens. And apparently about a hundred more are going to be added soon in that. So that's an example.

In Defiance County, they're going to be doing I think a couple of things but mainly the River Project, which is a big sewage project, frankly. I mean it's not a sexy thing. It's infrastructure we're talking about. And, in fact, that's I think a lot of what is happening right now that doesn't create the number of jobs people were thinking it was going to create right away.

And I do think that we need to keep in mind this: only a quarter of the stimulus money has been dispersed so far. It sounds to me that they're going to have to speed this up. But we also have a state budget that hasn't been resolved yet. And so we're not even able to get the full amount of the federal money we normally would get. And I know we're not the exception in that but it's a glaring problem in Ohio, because people are already hurting so much.

HANSEN: So patience is running out in your state.

Ms. SCHULTZ: Yes. But yes it is. I don't think, I mean some thing's got to give. I do see our communities pulling together in ways they haven't before. But I'm also just sensing such a weariness in people in Ohio. But it is heartbreaking to watch the suffering and having them constantly asking how much longer.

HANSEN: Connie Schultz is a columnist with the Plain Dealer newspapers in Cleveland, and she joined us from member station WCPN in Cleveland.

Thank you so much.

Ms. SCHULTZ: Thank you.

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