Clark County team charged with luring stimulus dollars

Clark County formed a 25-person team to tap huge pots of stimulus money in the hope of creating local jobs and augmenting services.

The task force, made up of department heads and staffers, will aggressively pursue a slice of the federal funds, well in the billions of dollars, that will be dispensed nationwide in the coming months.

The county team would go after some of the $1.5 billion that came directly to the state, as well as a long list of stimulus funds that federal agencies have tagged for various programs.

Commissioner Rory Reid spearheaded the task force to ensure the county gets its share of what he says is much-needed money in hard economic times.

“We need to fight hard to make sure our citizens benefit from it,” Reid said. “I think there are opportunities to find jobs for our people and improve service delivery.”

A cohesive effort is paramount because the county will compete with other governments across the country for many of the funds, Reid said.

Those who apply for grants must wade through sets of rules that, in some cases, the federal government is making up as it goes along, Reid said.

Staffers will wait for federal guidelines to be issued before they apply for grants, county spokesman Erik Pappa said. Not only will they know how to tailor the grant requests, they’ll see whether the rules disqualify the county or if the grants come with too many stipulations, he said.

“We have to make sure there’s a return on our investment,” Pappa said.

Gov. Jim Gibbons has said he is leery of stimulus money with “chains” attached. He pointed specifically to unemployment aid.

The county will explore funding to expand services for the impoverished, create a rescue unit at a rural fire station, boost technology at University Medical Center, make county buildings more energy efficient and improve Spring Mountain Youth Camp.

Local governments are set to receive federal money for homeless prevention. About $2.6 million is earmarked for the county, $2.1 million for Las Vegas and $677,000 for North Las Vegas.

“It will fill a big gap,” said Mike Pawlak, a management analyst for the county’s finance department.

Part of the money would be used to replace the $600,000 that state lawmakers took from a program that assisted low-income renters, said Shannon West, regional homeless services coordinator.

The funds will help renters with housing costs, including security deposits, utility fees, moving expenses and the last month’s rent, West said.

To qualify, renters can’t earn more than 120 percent of the area’s median income, which is $53,700 for one person and $76,700 for a four-person household.

Most people who request emergency aid are barely making a living or are jobless, West said.

The recession has thrown more people into dire circumstances and caused state and local funding to shrink, West said. “You can see how desperately we need the money.”

Most of the money should go toward aiding kids and first-time homeless families, if it is truly for prevention and not intervention, said Kathleen Boutin, founder of the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth.

“I think prevention starts with the youth,” Boutin said. “We have to get that 17-year-old off the street before he becomes the 40-year-old sleeping on someone’s couch.”

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

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