Faces of Recovery
Real People Are Working Real Jobs
The real story of the first year of the Recovery Act is about people:
- the people whose jobs were saved or who went back to work;
- the people who were able to make their mortgage payment;
- the people who bought health insurance to care for an ailing relative.
These men and women are the untold success stories of ARRA—the faces behind the numbers. Without ARRA, hundreds of thousands of workers—employed by state DOTs, by contractors and subcontractors, by manufacturers of everything from asphalt to pipes—would have seen few bright spots last year. With ARRA, they not only received a paycheck, paid their taxes and spent money in their communities, they made real and lasting improvements to the roads, bridges, Interstates, buses and transit systems we all rely on every day.
Here are a few of their stories:
John Avino of Oklahoma
John Avino worked for a road and bridge construction contractor in Orlando, FL, for 12 years when he was laid off shortly after Thanksgiving 2008. Due to a decline in work, his company shut down its road construction division. John, who had 20 years of experience in environmental and civil engineering, was off work for a few months when he responded to a newspaper ad, interviewed and was hired by TTK Construction in mid-April. John is currently a project manager on a project in Pauls Valley.
Jonathan Olsen and Rocky Ciancette of Maine
When the apparent low bidder of I-295 northbound rehabilitation project was announced at the bid opening, cheers were heard over the conference phone. Pike Industries had 50 employees waiting on the line, anxious to hear how busy the summer months might or might not be for their crews. Jonathan Olsen, Pike’s regional manager, said 2009 was looking pretty “dismal” until Recovery Act funding made infrastructure projects possible.
The news sparked a ripple effect immediately with Maine-based Cianbro Corp. as a subcontractor for the bridge work and Main Line Fence getting the guardrail work. Main Line Fence owner Rocky Ciancette immediately called employees, who had been laid off, with news they would be rehired for this project. “This is a big project for us” he said.
Frank Anzenberger of Michigan
Construction trade unemployment in Michigan last year probably topped 40 percent, according to Kirk Steudle, the state's transportation director. One person who had been out looking for more than half a year was Frank Anzenberger. As Steudle says, "This is a guy who has been in the industry for 30 years—not a newbie." But with the economy still sluggish and so little building going on, Anzenberger might have stayed out of work for many months to come.
Instead, Anzenberger was not only hired, he had the chance to introduce Vice President Joe Biden at a Kalamazoo ceremony last June marking the approval of the 2000th transportation project funded by the stimulus bill.
"The economic stimulus does mean to me that I'm going to have a weekly paycheck," Anzenberger said.
Bart Presinger of California
All Bart Presinger wanted was a job. After being laid off at the start of 2009, Presinger sent out more than 50 resumes during the next six months. Despite having worked in construction for a quarter of a century, Presinger couldn't get a nibble. Finally, Presinger was hired as a project manager, overseeing the construction of three miles of new six-lane highway, connecting the California -Mexico border with Interstate 805—a key conduit for international trade where truck traffic is expected to double by 2020.
Presinger is overseeing 115 people at the work site and only regrets that there isn't work for more. He knows how tight things can get when you're out of work. "We were skimping everywhere we could and we were maybe two months away from possibly missing a payment on the house," he said. "Thank God I got hired on. It really saved our way of life."
Michael Joseph of Washington
The project to widen I-5 in the median to accommodate new HOV lanes was a life-line for several workers. Dean Libhart of Tacoma who is married and has a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old at home, said, "This is a godsend for my family." Michael Joseph, a 53-year-old Spanaway man who has only been able to work four months out of the last 12, said: "I just about started crying (when I landed the job)."
Times have been particularly trying for Joseph, whose wife is fighting cancer. "For me, health care is everything," Joseph said. Charles Graham, 44, of Key Center, is a single father of an 11-year-old daughter and he takes care of his 63-year-old mother. For more than two decades, he found steady work. That all changed Nov. 7, 2008, the last day Graham worked before starting this new job. "In 21 years, I’ve never seen anything like this," Graham said.
Adam Zaharick of Pennsylvania
Adam Zaharick's concerns centered on education. For two summers in a row, he had worked as a laborer in central Pennsylvania, allowing him to pay his own way through college without taking on debt. Last spring, it looked doubtful that he would be recalled for a third season until his boss landed an ARRA-funded project that saved or created 30 jobs.
Fred Arellano of New Mexico
Fred Arellano, a construction worker with 33 years experience, went out looking for work every day for four months without success until he landed a job supervising an ARRA-funded $17 million paving project in southern New Mexico.
Rhea Mayolo of Maryland
Rhea Mayolo, a divorced mom who had been supporting her kids by working multiple jobs waiting tables and keeping books, found a more comfortable living after being hired by a Maryland engineering firm that had received some stimulus work last spring.