Did the stimulus work?

AMARILLO, TEXAS - Two years and almost $800 billion dollars later, debate is still raging about if the federal stimulus program really helped turn around the economy.

What we found is that our area made out with a lot of goodies in the stimulus package, but when it came to helping the economy, most people we talked with think the stimulus didn't end up doing too much.

It's not hard to find stimulus projects benefiting the area. From construction of a new overpass at 3rd and Grand to avoid this train blocking traffic. To education initiatives, funding for housing projects and even a new hospital in Borger.

"Stimulus funding has been very, very important to us in this community to do projects that we could not have done otherwise," Mayor Debra McCartt said.

But you'd be hard press to find the same evidence of exactly how many local jobs were created. The government records overlap, and some are incomplete. We were able though, to weed it down to valid claims of at least 141 jobs in Amarillo either saved or created by the stimulus. That's a paycheck for people like Michael Loyd.

"If we didn't have that to fall back on, i wouldn't have a job," Loyd said.

To create those 141 jobs, Amarillo got just over $104 million - or almost $780 thousand taxpayer dollars for each local position created.

That amount of money is enough to buy each of the government employees a four bedroom Wolflin home and not just one, but seven luxury cars.

Then there's the question if those jobs were just temporary.  The biggest work creating project on the High Plains was for 38 positions at the early head start education programs for kids.  But today, those same programs are facing massive cuts as Congress is trying to balance the budget - meaning many of the stimulus employees could soon end up out of the job.

"The obama administration said if we spent all that money it would reduce unemployment, it would get the economy going again, and it just hasn't happened," US Representative Mac Thornberry said.

Supporters says the stimulus also had an indirect job creation impact by backing work training programs. But out of the 47 funded most overlap to serve the same people and nobody can say how well they work because only five have ever been studied to see if trainees got more jobs than anyone else.

"Shouldn't congress know if they're gonna spend $18 billion dollars -- if it's workin?" US Sen. Tom Coburn said.

But perhaps the best evaluation for if the stimulus worked is the local unemployment rate. When this $787 billion bill was passed, 3.8 percent of Amarillo was out of work.  Since then, unemployment has jumped to 5.3 percent last month.