• Workshop outlines how Mid-Southerners get stimulus money
  • State and local lawmakers vow to make sure distribution fair
  • Small businesses counting on money to shore up companies

(Memphis 04/16/2009) – From Washington to the Mid-South. This weekend plans are being layed out to show how stimulus money approved by the federal government will make it into the hands of people right here in the Mid-South.

“The last 4 years my business has been steady going down to zero and I’m at the point now where I got to sell all the equipment or get the business period,” said Rickie Whittington, owner of Whittington Wrecking and Demolition.

Whittington’s company helped in the demolition of downtown buildings to make way for Red Birds Stadium. Work is something he rarely gets now. He came to the workshop to see how he might get money from the American Recovery and Re-Investment Act to stimulate his business.

Whittington said, “Right now, I’m just screaming and hollering to everybody that will listen.”

State law makers as well as city and county representatives were on hand to explain what the money could be used for locally and how much might be available.

“We’re plugged in our job is to communicate and make sure you’re plugged in,” said TN Rep. G.A. Hardaway.

On top of the 800 summer jobs the city of Memphis has they’ll add thousands more, according to city councilman Edmund Ford, Jr.

Ford said, “State money has come in to where we can add an additional 2,300 jobs to the pool.”

A HUD representative says money to create jobs like weatherizing homes is also available. There’s also a tax credit for homeowners who do it. For those families in foreclosure, there’s money to help find housing. The job for those hosting the workshop according to many state and local leaders is to distribute the information through out the city.

“What we’re wanting to do is to make sure people understand it’s out there for you. Help is there for you,” said Alleshia White, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., sponsor of the event.

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., is co-hosting the event.

Fraternity president, Larry Strong said, “When your hear 7 plus billion dollars, that’s a lot of money but will that money trickle down to my house?”

Timing is key. Stimulus money is temporary and the bidding for it is expected to go quick.

“Be ready because this is going to go fast. The more ready you can be, the quicker we can move on this because these funds won’t be available forever,” said George Flinn, Shelby County Commissioner.

Businesses are advised to diversify so they’ll be able to do the jobs that will be needed. Whittington says he is ready to do that.

He said, “It don’t have to be just demolition. We can clear out ditch banks. We can tear down woods. We can build highways. My license got railroad on it. I can work on the railroad but unless we get some help from the city, we’re all just going to fall.”

Whittington says no one from the city or county is giving small business owners in direction in how they might go about getting contract work that will be paid for by the stimulus money.

Those wanting to apply for the city of Memphis’ summer job program must be between the ages of 14 and 24 years old. The deadline to apply is April 26th. Applicants can live in Shelby and Fayette County.