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Florida lost 10,000 jobs as stimulus funding winds down

TALLAHASSEE — Florida has lost about 10,000 jobs as contracts and grants from the federal stimulus program dry up, according to a new report from the Collins Center for Public Policy.

"Some of the big education grants are winding down," said Don Winstead, a Collins Center consultant who was former Gov. Charlie Crist's stimulus czar. "I expect the job numbers to decline from here on out."

The Florida-based think tank started crunching stimulus data with money from liberal investor George Soros after Republican Gov. Rick Scott stopped maintaining a similar website that Crist started. Read the report at collinscenter.org.

The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act required states to create a website and Winstead said Florida is still meeting the minimum requirements. But the data, showing how much money had been spent on projects like road construction and water system renovations, is no longer centralized on flarecovery.com.

"The information is available if you know where to look for it," Winstead said.

Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said the stimulus site was dismantled because it was not getting significant Web traffic and because Scott "has different priorities." Scott, who opposes the stimulus program, has created his own public records site that posts information related to Scott's policy agenda — floridahasarighttoknow.com.

"We're not in the business of promoting the stimulus as a get-to-work program," Burgess said. "But I'm happy to see the Collins Center has taken it upon themselves to produce this report and I encourage everyone to go see how many taxpayer dollars are being spent on the stimulus."

Leda Perez, vice president of the Collins Center, said her group resurrected the site to "prompt questions and discussion" about spending decisions. Money for the project came from Open Society Foundations, which is funded by Soros.

"Citizen participation in this process can help to ensure a more transparent and accountable government," Perez said.

The Collins Center report has tracked $19.2 billion in stimulus money that Florida has spent.

The report shows that 163,000 jobs in Florida, including teachers, construction workers and law enforcement, have been created or maintained thanks to the money. That total is down from a high of 173,000 since September 2010.

The state has received a total of $22.8 billion from the stimulus program out of $24.6 billion expected.

Michael C. Bender can be reached at mbender@sptimes.com.

Florida lost 10,000 jobs as stimulus funding winds down 10/24/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 24, 2011 9:14pm]
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