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Kentucky Receives Stimulus Funds to Help Struggling Homeowners

Financial help is available for unemployed Kentuckians having difficulty meeting their mortgages.

Kentucky is one of 18 states receiving federal stimulus money from the U.S. Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund. Kentucky’s share is $149 million dollars. Richard McQuady of the Kentucky Housing Corporation says homeowners can receive up to $20,000 or 12 months of assistance, whichever occurs first.

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First Foreclosed Home Renovated By HUD Sold

State and federal housing officials Wednesday unveiled the first previously-foreclosed home renovated with federal stimulus funds.

The stimulus money came through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization program. Mayor Greg Fischer says the house is one of several abandoned or foreclosed homes in the city to receive a makeover using federal dollars.

“Louisville has received a little bit over ten million dollars of Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding and we’ve partnered with a handful of non-profit developers in several neighborhoods. Such as this one here in Newburg, also in Portland, Shawnee, Smoketown, Shelby Park and a few others,” he says.

Fischer says more than 50 additional properties are also being rehabilitated.

The house is also the first in the HUD program to be sold in Louisville. Stephanie Miller, a single mother of three, is the new owner.

“I’m glad to be a part of the NSP program it was perfect timing for me,” she says. “I’ve been working on this for a long time, but I was glad to see that there and made available to me and my family to get this going. I always lived in this area so it wasn’t hard for me to decide to pick a home here.”

Miller says she and her family will be moving in within a week or so.

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Center On Education Policy Says Race To The Top Reforms Will Take Time To Show Results

A new study from the Center on Education Policy says the momentum toward improving public education that started with the federal Race to the Top program is in danger of dying.

In the last two years, many states passed education reforms to better compete for Race to the Top grants which came from the federal stimulus package. And now that stimulus money is no longer available, reforms may go unfunded and lawmakers may not be motivated to enact further changes.

But CEP president Jack Jennings says lawmakers shouldn’t be discouraged. He says schools will improve along with the economy…if lawmakers keep the reforms in place.

“The state governments are going through that debate right now and local school districts are too. By continuing to work on these reforms, even with little money in hand, hopefully they’ve laid the groundwork for future success,” he says.

Jennings says lawmakers should be looking for ways to insulate education funding from the ups and downs of the national economy.

The Kentucky General Assembly passed school assessment reforms in 2009 in part to compete for Race to the Top dollars. Those changes take effect next fall.

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Fischer Says New Federal Grants May Be Limited For Cities

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer says large-scale federal assistance for cities is likely out of the question for the next two years.

Like many cities, Louisville took advantage of federal stimulus dollars to complete long-planned projects in 2009 and 10.

Fischer and several other mayors met with President Barack Obama Friday. And Fischer says there wasn’t much talk of further government spending for cities.

“It doesn’t look hopeful that there’s going to be a lot of federal money. Obviously the stimulus funds are over. The tax cut will have more of a bottom-up effect on the economy with more spending on the retail level. But I don’t anticipate a lot of big spending on federal programs,” he says. “It mainly was about continuing funds like Community Development Block Grants like going into cities and getting leverage for terms, making sure those programs stay in effect as much as possible. The focus was on education; obviously our country is falling behind.”

Fischer says the president did talk about using community development block grants and other existing programs. The meeting came at the end of the winter gathering of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which began Thursday. Fischer also met with members of Kentucky’s congressional delegation. He says they discussed Louisville’s needs and transportation issues. Specifically, Fischer says he hopes proposed cuts to the Ohio River Bridges Project will not lead to more delays as federal studies are updated.

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Fischer Applauds Green Programs Though Funding May Soon Be Scarce

Louisville Metro Government officials gathered in Newburg Tuesday to celebrate new environmentally-friendly projects in Louisville. Mayor Greg Fischer says he plans to focus on sustainability with all new city projects, but that could be a financially difficult task.

Solar panels have been added to the Newburg library and a government building downtown. They were installed by Earthwell Energy Management. Company president Johnny Miller applauds Fischer’s pledge to pursue sustainable projects in Louisville.

“By calling attention to this project and putting it in the spotlight, I think it sends the message that we’re in the beginning of a new era, that we have new priorities and we have a new sheriff in town,” he says.

Both projects were paid for with money from the federal stimulus package. That money won’t be available for new projects, and Fischer says he will have to review all new developments and construction to find ways to make them green on a budget.

“A lot of sustainable investments, the cost has reduced significantly over the last decade or so,” he says. “There still is a small cost difference between going green and not green, so the price differential is not nearly as much as what it used to be.”

Fischer also plans to hire a director of sustainability. That will have to wait until the summer, though, since the money to pay the director is not in the current city budget.

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Grocery Store Coming To Park DuValle

Local and federal officials Tuesday broke ground on a new grocery store for the Park DuValle housing development southwest of downtown. The project was funded largely through federal stimulus and housing funds.

The store has been on the city’s wish list for Park DuValle for years, but it’s been delayed due largely to uncertain financing. When the store opens in the summer, it will serve produce to a community that does not have easy access to fresh foods. Housing and Urban Development regional administrator Ed Jennings says that was one reason why the project was chosen by White House officials to receive federal support.

“We didn’t develop this concept, this obviously was around way before the Obama Administration came around. But we’re able to identify and see good projects we can support,” he says.

Jennings says the estimated 200 construction jobs the 4.4 million dollar project will create were also a deciding factor. The store will be operated by the local grocery chain ValuMarket. It is expected to have about 30 employees once it’s built.

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Jackson Woods Renovations Underway

An affordable-housing development in Louisville’s Shelby Park and Smoketown neighborhoods is being renovated with help from private donors and the federal stimulus package.

The Jackson Woods apartments were built in 1972, but have needed repairs for several years. Officials Monday announced that a $7.7 million renovation project is in progress.

The New Directions Housing Corporation owns Jackson Woods. Director Joe Gliessner says the renovations will also be beneficial to the surrounding neighborhood.

“If they look good, people around them are going to make their houses look good,” he says. “Many times, people look at renters as being the least involved and the least caring, and we think as good stewards on behalf of the renters, we have a role to make these places the best they can be.”

Much of the money for the project comes from the federal government and the stimulus package. The rest comes from private sources. Gleissner says the project will be complete next June.

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Stimulus-Funded Road And Sidewalk Projects To Continue Through October

$8.5 million in federal stimulus funds is being put to use in Louisville repairing streets and sidewalks. And the projects are changing the way local funds are spent.

Metro Council members sometimes use their city-provided discretionary funds for sidewalk repairs in their districts. But Councilman David Tandy says the stimulus is paying for many of the most urgent projects, and council dollars can now be spent elsewhere.

“It helps you maximize those dollars and be able to do more with what you have,” he says. “So this is certainly a benefit to us and at the same time, being able to help stimulate our local economy.”

Tandy says the projects have also made his district more accessible for the disabled.

“The sidewalks are such to where they can’t navigate that section of sidewalk safely without going into the street to be able to do it,” he says. “That’s where this stimulus money has been able to allow for us to address some of those issues.”

In addition to repairing sidewalks, crews are also resurfacing many county and state roads in Louisville. In all, about 23 hundred local road and sidewalk projects have been paid for with stimulus dollars. Work on the projects is expected to continue through October

Local News

Unclaimed Appliance Rebate Money Available Again

Kentucky’s rebate program for energy efficient appliances enticed thousands of people to purchase new appliances, but thousands of Kentuckians never claimed their rebates.

The program began in April and was funded through the federal stimulus package. Four million dollars was to be distributed in rebates to Kentuckians who purchased Energy Star appliances. The rebates could be reserved online or over the phone, and all of the money was spoken for in a few weeks.

Dave McCalpin is G.E.’s General Manager for Home Energy Management. He says the program helped bring jobs to Louisville.

“These rebates given in the commonwealth and states across the country stimulated purchases of washers so much that we had to add 60 new employees right here on our washer line at Appliance Park,” he says.

More than 17 thousand rebates have been awarded, but many people who made reservations for rebates never cashed them in. 1.7 million dollars went unclaimed, and the money will be redistributed through a second round of rebates, which are available now and will be given on a first-come-first-served basis.

Energy Cabinet secretary Len Peters says many of the dollars will likely go to Kentuckians who waited too long to apply for rebates previously.

“I think it’s going to be more of the same consumers,” he says. “It’s just individuals who may have been shut out because we had to terminate when all $4 million was reserved, we didn’t know how much was going to be used, and it turns out about $1.7 million was not.”

Peters says he expects the money to last for about two or three months.

Local News

Vice President Biden To Visit Appliance Park, Southern Indiana

by Gabe Bullard

Vice President Joe Biden will be in the area Modnay.

Biden is scheduled to appear at a fundraiser for Indiana Congressman Baron Hill, but Congressman John Yarmuth invited the Vice President to cross the river.

Biden will visit GE’s Appliance Park, where stimulus dollars are funding the manufacture of energy-efficient appliances. Yarmuth says he thinks the visit will help generate positive public opinion of the stimulus package.

“I don’t think it has gained nearly the recognition it deserves for helping turn the corner on the economy,” he says. “Highlighting the benefits in this way should help increase public awareness of the benefits it’s provided.”

Biden will not make any public address while in Louisville.