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What the stimulus means for Minnesota, North Dakota

Stimulus highlights

A massive economic recovery package signed into law Tuesday will create or save 66,000 jobs in Minnesota and 8,000 jobs in North Dakota over the next two years, according to the White House.

The $787 billion bill will provide needed help on North Dakota's American Indian reservations, where tribal communities suffer an average unemployment rate of 50 percent, said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

The American Recovery Investment Act contains $2.6 billion for construction and infrastructure improvements and another $2.4 billion in bond authority for projects benefiting Indians, according to the Democratic Policy Committee, chaired by Dorgan.

It's unknown just how much of the money will go to North Dakota reservations, but Dorgan said the construction of new roads, health clinics, detention facilities and other facilities will create jobs and reduce unemployment.

"At the end, we will have substantially improved the assets - roads, bridges, health and other issues - that have long been neglected on Indian reservations," he said.

Meanwhile, a nonprofit group said the bill's infrastructure funding short-changes states with high unemployment rates while those with low rates, such as North Dakota, will receive a disproportionate amount of funding.

North Dakota will receive about $16,400 per unemployed worker while Minnesota will receive $3,537, according to New York-based ProPublica, which bills itself as an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.

The bill will provide an estimated $170 million in highway funds for North Dakota and $502 million for Minnesota.

Dorgan pointed out that North Dakota has more miles of roads per capita than any state in the nation, and maintaining and building those roads "takes a lot of resources."

The bill, through its State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, also contains an estimated $85.8 million for North Dakota - a state whose treasury is forecasting a nearly $1 billion surplus over the next two years. Minnesota will receive about $668 million.

"Those were lower priority funds as far as I was concerned in this package," Dorgan said. "But we have a backlog of a lot of projects that need doing in our state that will put people to work and even attract people to our state."

Dorgan said the bill "was not a perfect solution by any means, but the proposal to do nothing was not much of a proposal."

Fargo Realtor Jennifer Sturlaugson of PRG Home Sales said area Realtors are anticipating a wave of interest from first-time homebuyers looking to take advantage of the bill's tax credit of up to $8,000 or

10 percent of the purchase price of a new home.

The credit is retroactive to Dec. 31 and, unlike a previous tax credit of $7,500 for first-time homebuyers, it doesn't have to be paid back, Sturlaugson said.

"We expect this year's home show to be extremely busy with people asking about how they can benefit from the stimulus package," she said.