Today, as we face job losses and record unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression coupled with unprecedented economic challenges associated with the coronavirus pandemic, discussions are underway about a potential stimulus package to jumpstart the U.S. economy.
We only need to look back a decade to find a model which successfully helped put thousands of Idahoans back to work and brought back economic growth. In the wake of the Great Recession, Congress enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which provided upwards of $800 billion in federal funds to shore up the economy and create jobs. ARRA contained such things as tax incentives for people and businesses, funds for healthcare and education, as well as billions of dollars for infrastructure.
These infrastructure investments included funds for shovel-ready projects on public lands, promoted energy efficiency, restored watersheds, upgraded wastewater treatment plants and more.
Here in Idaho, ARRA eased access to public lands, addressed deferred maintenance needs, and restored habitat for fish and wildlife. Funds were also available to improve energy efficiency for federal buildings and lower-income households, invest in transportation projects, and clean up Superfund sites. All told, ARRA helped to generate thousands of jobs and careers across the state.
With another economic stimulus package potentially in the works, the Idaho Conservation League is working with its partners to identify shovel-ready projects to put Idahoans to work to help keep what makes Idaho so special – our quality of life: clean air, rivers, and lakes; beautiful mountains and public lands; our fish and wildlife; and strong communities with neighbors helping neighbors.
To help keep Idaho special, ICL is working closely with its partners in each of our four primary campaigns (public lands, climate, Snake River and salmon/steelhead). We are reaching out to them to identify potential projects and programs now that can create shovel-ready jobs for struggling Idahoans AND protect and restore our environment.
A good example is our work as a member of the Idaho Forest Restoration Partnership, which connects, informs, and supports collaborative groups to restore the resilience of Idaho forests. With our partners in the IFRP and in each of the collaborative groups, we will support work to restore habitat, reforest areas that have been burned, repair crumbling roads and replace fish-blocking culverts.
We’re also working closely with energy utilities and the Public Utilities Commission to promote energy efficiency to make Idaho carbon-free. In evaluating ARRA, the Congressional Budget Office found that such projects had the highest economic benefit.
Funds for infrastructure improvements can also upgrade irrigation infrastructure to improve efficiencies, replace outdated equipment, and help farmers reduce runoff. We’re working with our agricultural partners, Native American tribes, fish advocates and other community partners to identify potential projects that can find new water sources, restore habitat, improve irrigation efficiency, and enhance water quality in the Mid-Snake River.
There are win-win opportunities across the entire state. As we consider options to send Idahoans back to work in a post-Coronavirus World, we’ll be encouraging our members, supporters and partners to join us!