Last week, the new unemployment figures were posted for the month of September. South Carolina’s unemployment was up to 11.6 percent, that’s fifth highest in the nation. State Comptroller Richard Eckstrom, a longtime critic of accepting money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act says the funds were supposed to create jobs and he hasn’t seen much of that.
“About 40 percent of that money has been disbursed by Washington. We’ve gotten here in South Carolina just at $700 million, actually we’ve gotten a little bit more than that that hadn’t been spent about $700 million of that money. Of course, that money was suppose to have created jobs. The president said if that money got sent to the states immediately it was going to keep national unemployment rate below eight percent,” says Eckstrom.
Before the stimulus package was approved, the national unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, now it is near 10 percent. Eckstrom explains where most of the stimulus money has gone in the state: “We’ve taken in a spent about $700 million, $30 million of which, just a very, very small part has gone to job creation. Most of the money has gone to grow some of the big all consuming government programs that were currently in place. Our Medicaid agency, the agency that provides health care for the indigent, has gotten the ‘lion’s share,’ almost 60 percent of what we’ve taken in,” says Eckstrom.
Eckstrom says most of the money given to the states came from China.
“The Chinese bailed us out on this one and that’s a rather chilling thought because the Chinese are now making noise about wanting to get their money back. They lent us money by buying our federal treasury bonds. They’re now going ‘well, your currency is losing value, and so when we get our money back in 20 years it’s not going to be worth as much. If ya’ll keep spending money the way you are, you’re spending money like drunken sailors on shore-leave, we want our money back,’ ” says Eckstrom.
Eckstrom says $107 million of the stimulus package has gone to unemployment benefits, but he says that doesn’t create jobs, it goes to those without jobs.
The South Carolina Oversight Task Force will meet this Thursday to discuss the federal stimulus money in the state. They expect to hear from the public at the 10 a.m. meeting at the Statehouse. Currently, more than $775 million of the federal stimlulus package has come through state agencies and programs. According to a statement from Eckstrom’s office, who is co-chair of the Oversight Task Force, the Task Force was created to monitor funds and reduce mismanagement, waste and fraud opportunities.