With President Barack Obama’s $787 billion Economic Recovery Package signed into law, local officials are scrambling to cash in.

The city of Santa Barbara has already submitted a list of “shovel ready” projects in the hope of garnering millions of dollars in funding. However, much of the money from the recently passed stimulus is still drifting in bureaucratic limbo and officials have no idea what the final sum will finance.

Local congresswoman Lois Capps has also been busy.

In recent weeks she has helped secure thousands in federal funding for projects within the 23rd District, approving, along with the rest of the House, the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill. Capps said the dire state of California’s economy necessitated federal funding from the recovery plan.

“California’s economy is so bad some of [the] money from the stimulus package has to go directly to the state,” Capps said. “Even our Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has been right there front and center saying we need to take this funding and put it to use.”

The Laundry List

According to Robert Pierson, Santa Barbara’s finance director, local officials are wading through the stimulus bill to determine the direct impact on the city.

“Unfortunately it’s probably looking like two to three weeks before we really start having some idea of what we might see as far as funding,” Pierson said. “Our professional agencies are still unwinding what is a massive and massively complicated package.”

Pierson did say, however, that the Public Works Department will receive funding for general street projects.

“They have identified $1.5 million for some general streets projects – street repairs, maintenance, overlays, things like that,” he said. “That’s really all we know at this point.”

The city does have a list of future projects that stimulus money may help realize. In fact, the city could potentially spend over $114 million on projects already submitted for consideration. It is unlikely, however, they will receive enough for all these projects.

Several months ago Sens. Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer requested a list of projects that the city was ready to begin, or would be ready to begin on short notice. The list the city submitted included projects ranging from construction on the airline terminal to replacing the pilings on Stearns Wharf and renovation on parks throughout the city.

According to Pierson, this list has been construed as the city’s requests for federal funding, instead of merely a list of projects that are “shovel ready.”

“The list really does not represent any kind of application or any expectation that somehow those projects are worthy of federal funding, or warrant or will get federal funding,” he said. “We were just responding to the senators’ request for a list of projects that the city would be ready to move on if there were funding available.”

Pierson said the city will proceed with many projects such as the airline terminal – which is estimated to cost $45,000,000 – regardless of federal funding.

“The bill included over a billion dollars for airport capital across the country,” Pierson said. “We’re certainly hoping that some of that will find its way this way, but the Federal Aviation Administration think its going to be mid-March before they are ready to think about allocating that money.”

And Not Just the Stimulus

Hand in hand with the stimulus bill, Congress’ 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill will have a substantial effect on Santa Barbara County by providing funding for several county grants and programs.

The House approved the bill yesterday, and the Senate is expected to take up the legislation early next week. Buried in the legislative language are millions of dollars destined for Santa Barbara.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will receive $335,000 to investigate shoreline protection and coastal storm damage along the Carpinteria coast and at nearby Goleta Beach, which has long been a victim of coastal erosion. Additionally, nearly $2 million of the funding is designated for maintenance dredging at the Santa Barbara Harbor.

In regards to education, $95,000 will go to programs at Santa Barbara Summit High and the Santa Barbara Women’s Economic Ventures will receive $190,000 to increase capacity for small business development programs.

Santa Barbara County also received an $829,013 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development addressing homelessness in the county.

Close to Home

In California, where the budget deficit of $42 billion is larger than the total budget of many states, the bill is expected to affect an estimated 396,000 jobs, which Capps said is the state’s highest priority.

“We need to make jobs for teachers, police officers. … There are some places where they are furloughing first responders and county sheriffs, thinking how many they can cut back,” Capps said. “That’s how I.V. stays put together on the weekends, isn’t it? It can come really close to home.”

Also close to home are the challenges facing college students upon graduation.

“Unemployment is not just affecting the low income class – these are high collar jobs,” Capps said. “Companies are closing right and left and these people are in competition with college graduates – I hope college students are really paying attention.”