Published August 22, 2011
A federal stimulus grant of nearly $500,000 to grow trees and stimulate the economy in Nevada yielded a whopping 1.72 jobs, according to government statistics.
In 2009, the U.S. Forest Service awarded $490,000 of stimulus money to Nevada's Clark County Urban Forestry Revitalization Project, aimed at revitalizing urban neighborhoods in the county with trees, plants, and green-industry training.
According to Recovery.gov, the U.S. government's official website related to Recovery Act spending, the project created 1.72 permanent jobs. In addition, the Nevada state Division of Forestry reported the federal grant generated one full-time temporary job and 11 short-term project-oriented jobs.
It also resulted in the planting of hundreds of trees -- which critics say is about the only good thing that came out of this stimulus project.
"Looking at the failure of the stimulus to live up to its promises, not just in Nevada, but throughout America, I think the question becomes ‘is there any good use of stimulus money?'" said Douglas Kellogg, communications manager for National Taxpayers Union, in an email to FoxNews.com.
A Nevada state official has a simple explanation for the low job growth.
"If the question is ‘was this a job-creating project?’ the answer is 'no, it wasn't,'" said Bob Conrad, public information officer for the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. "It was one of a number of projects that we do believe helped improve natural resources in the state."
Conrad said the $490,000 is being used for a number of projects. Those projects include tree inventories, salaries for staff at the nurseries through the Nevada Division of Forestry, plant material and plant supplies.
"The goal obviously was to make trees available to local government entities, parks, schools, things like that, at our state nursery," said Conrad. "We basically grew and provided about 2,000 trees to these local entities."
The grant also funds Spanish-language training for Hispanics in the landscaping and tree care industry to "develop employability skills and increase job retention."
Conrad could not say how many, if any, jobs were created by that training.
"We had to put together projects within very specific parameters. If the particular project you're referring to didn't create jobs necessarily, that's really something that's beyond the parameters of the program and it's really something you'd have to ask the federal government, the U.S. Forest Service."
Repeated calls by FoxNews.com to the U.S. Forest Service were not returned.
A project summary provided by Conrad showed an even lower amount of full-time jobs, with 1.37 full-time employees at the Las Vegas Nursery.
Conrad explained that the number of full-time jobs is low because most of the tasks, such as planting trees or driving plants from the nursery to participating schools or parks, are given to individuals on a short-term basis via a temp agency. For example, 11 people were hired temporarily for different aspects of the project, such as planters, trainers, drivers, and individuals to develop programs.
"You're not going to hire a driver full-time for this entire project if the driver is only needed for a limited number of hours," said Conrad. "It wouldn't make good business sense to hire a full-time person to do something that's really just a short-term need for the project."
Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, which, according to latest U.S. Department of Labor statistics, stood at 12.9 percent in July.
Kellogg said that the low job growth from this project could rub taxpayers the wrong way.
"Job-killing taxes, or more debt for a downgraded nation, are not likely to bring relief to our unemployment crisis," said Kellogg.
Conrad said that only 60 percent of the stimulus money has been used so far and of that amount, 90 to 95 percent of it is already allocated to salaries, sub grants, and other projects.
"The project isn't done," said Conrad.
But Kellogg believes it's a bad use of taxpayer money during these tough economic times.
"The president may well propose new stimulus efforts when Congress returns from recess,” said Kellogg, “and those who learn from past stimulus debacles will not be fooled again.”