In an economy where there is a pressing need to help the growing ranks of jobless in manufacturing, public safety, technology and construction, it seems the height of folly for $2.3 million in federal economic stimulus grants to be targeted to train more hairstylists, nail technicians and masseuses in the Tampa Bay area. What else to call this capricious use of precious stimulus funds but a taxpayer clip job?
The stimulus money being spent to train hairstylists to craft a French braid is administered through Pell Grants to area vocational training facilities. Several beauty schools have received between $250,000 and $1 million in public money to help cover tuition that can run up to $12,000 a year — more than tuition to attend the University of Florida for a year.
Never mind that even professionals in the hairstyling business say there are few job opportunities. In determining how to allocate stimulus dollars, the federal government inexplicably does not conduct an assessment on which job skills are in demand and focus on funding training in those in more needy areas. How shortsighted. How wasteful. How mystifying.
In addition to the largesse being lavished on beauty schools, also consider the $5.4 million in federal stimulus money targeted for St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, despite the facility's ranking on a government list as one of the lowest priorities for airport projects in the nation. By contrast, Tampa International Airport, which serves 24 times as many passengers as St. Petersburg-Clearwater, will receive a modest $8 million in stimulus cash.
So much for due diligence.
As millions of unemployed Americans across the nation and the Tampa Bay area continue to fruitlessly search for work, the spending of their tax money on job training and projects of questionable value does not help the situation. The stimulus money was needed to help stem the recession, but it should be spent where it can do the most good.