GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – When Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) voted twice against President Obama’s economic stimulus package, he voted twice to kill approximately 7,500 jobs in his congressional district in and around Grand Rapids.

The estimate is based on an analysis of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus bill) produced by the president’s .

According to that analysis, spending in the economic recovery package will create or save 3.5 million jobs across the country over the next two years, including the 7,500 in Ehlers’ congressional district.

Where will the jobs go?

In addition to breakdowns by congressional districts, the White House released detailed data on job creation by state and by sectors, including infrastructure, health care, energy and education.

According to the information provided, the bill will invest about $150 billion infrastructure projects from repairing and building roads, dams and water systems to building or repairing mass transit systems, expanding broadband access and constructing affordable housing.

In the area of health care, the economic stimulus package sets aside about $87 billion to help states shore up their Medicaid programs for the record numbers of newly unemployed workers seeking state aid for health insurance. In addition, other funds will help some unemployed workers keep their existing insurance by providing aid to pay COBRA payments.

An additional $12 billion investment will modernize health care by developing and implementing information technologies for the field. Other health care infrastructure such as community health centers, the National Institutes of Health, and the like will also see a boost in funding.

New investments to modernize the country’s energy grid and to improve the federal government’s use of energy efficiently are a part of the package. The White House analysis of the stimulus package revealed that jobs will be created with investments in simple things like energy efficient upgrades for public buildings and weatherization programs.

The most significant way the economic recovery package will boost education is through the state stabilization fund. About $53.6 billion has been set aside to help states balance their budgets and avoid laying off state employees, especially education professionals. Without intervention, states across the country are now eyeing about 600,000 layoffs of teachers, school staff, counselors and related education employees. The president’s stimulus package should help states avoid most of those layoffs.

In addition, the stimulus package provides new funding for early childhood education, special education, college tuition assistance and teacher professional development programs. Each area is expected to create jobs, improve public education and reduce the fiscal pressures on states to eliminate funding and cut jobs.

Back to Grand Rapids

In the western Michigan city of Grand Rapids, public school teachers and families have watched for several years as budget cuts have forced the closure or consolidation of school after school. Layoffs and cutbacks have compounded the problems the school system faces by the general harm to the local economy.

Teachers have worked for two years without a contract. The public schools superintendent has balked at good-faith negotiations, even going so far as to threaten teachers who have discussed job actions in response to his hard stance.

Without the stimulus, additional budget cuts expected for the state’s 2009 budget would force even deeper harm to the city’s public schools.

A rapid movement of the stimulus funds to school districts like Grand Rapids will keep schools open, teachers and staff at work, and the vital work of educating the children in full swing. In addition, new jobs in the city’s public infrastructure and health care sectors will help a city that has been hard-hit by the current recession but also by years of growing unemployment.

Rep. Ehlers, who voted with the hardline Republicans against the stimulus package, has proven incapable of leading on the crucial issue of creating jobs here. The least he can do now is to get out of the way of progress. Doubtless, Grand Rapids voters will remember his actions come 2010.