SF may get some stimulus help

February 23, 2009 7:22:25 PM PST
The check is in the mail. President Barack Obama announced he's releasing the first $15 billion of the stimulus money on Tuesday.

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The $15 billion that will be released tomorrow will be paid to individual states to help them with Medicaid payments for the poor.

At the same time, the president pledged to reign in government spending. And the San Francisco government is trying to figure out how to get more.

One week after signing the largest spending bill in U.S. history, President Obama vowed the money would not come without strings

"I'm pledging to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office," President Obama said.

The president was speaking to a collection of lawmakers, economists and experts that gathered at the White House for a summit on the economic crisis.

He said cutting the deficit will mean tough decisions.

"In the end however, if we want to rebuild our economy and restore discipline and honesty to our budget we will need to change the way we do business here in Washington," President Obama said.

Polls show nearly everyone in the country is concerned about the deficit. In December, an ABC News "Washington Post" poll showed 49 percent were very concerned. That number is now 59 percent -- 10 point jump in just two months.

But in San Francisco on Monday, the mayor's concern was how to get more federal dollars.

Gavin Newsom called his own summit, of department heads to brain storm over how to get more of the $787 billion in federal stimulus money.

"I happen to believe that the vast majority of this money will be spoken for over the next few weeks," Mayor Newsom said.

The mayor said the city is stepping up its strategy to compete for those federal dollars, which cover a much broader area than the often repeated billions for roads and bridges.

"There are senior nutrition programs there are community clinics there are food stamp expansion there's rental assistance," Mayor Newsom said.

President Obama told a meeting of the nation's governors that on Tuesday he'll start paying out the first $15 billion in Medicaid assistance.

Newsom calls it huge.

"This is perhaps the biggest relief that will happen directly to counties like San Francisco," Mayor Newsom said.

Newsom said the money will offset medical cuts in the state budget, providing as much as $40 million for primary care, hospitals, mental health and substance abuse services and in home support for seniors.

"It really preserves the safety net for people who need our services. We believe with the fiscal crisis there will be more such people in the next few months," said San Francisco Public Health Director Dr. Mitch Katz said.

It's no surprise that cities and counties are angling for as much as they can get.

What's different is that while the president is handing out the billions he's also saying the federal government must stop its spend-thrift ways.

Members of Congress who complain about profligate spending can turn around and tout how much they're able to bring home to their districts. Changing that is going to be tough.

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