- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Middle-class families can look to the promise of new jobs, and rely on the economic recovery package for help getting through the recession, an Obama administration economist says.

President Barack Obama has set up a task force to study ways to aid the middle class, and a town-hall style meeting set for Thursday in St. Cloud, Minn., offered people a chance to talk directly to Vice President Joe Biden and other officials. The session was to examine how middle-class people can benefit from the $787 billion stimulus measure Obama signed last month.

“If you look at the benefits that the typical middle-income, working family yields from a better jobs outlook, along with some of the tax benefits that are in the package, you’re talking about adding something in the neighborhood of $3,000 to the average income of middle-class families,” said Jared Bernstein, Biden’s chief economist and executive director of the Middle-Class Task Force.

The legislation aims to save or create 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year and reduce unemployment, which hit 8.1 percent in February. A draft of a report to be released at the meeting says every 1 percentage point drop in unemployment raises family incomes by up to 2 percent, which could mean as much as an extra $1,300 for middle-class families.

One tax credit, the administration says, will help 129 million working households, or about 95 percent of all working families. Individuals will receive up to $400, and married couples $800. Most workers will soon see a little extra money in their paychecks starting next month, after their employers adjust tax withholding formulas.

Other parts of the bill target families with dependent children and children in college. The bill also extends unemployment insurance, increases the weekly benefit by $25 and excludes those benefits from being treated as taxable income.

There’s also money to subsidize the cost of health insurance for laid-off workers.

Biden and other officials planned to answer some questions submitted through the task force’s Web site, as well as from the audience.

Many of the questions submitted to date covered jobs, health care, college tuition and loss of retirement money, Bernstein said.

The meeting was set for the New Flyer of America Bus Co. plant, which produces low-emission, alternative-fuel vehicles and where more than 90 people were hired last year. Its 650 employees are working to fill a two-year backlog of orders. The plant is one of two U.S. manufacturing facilities of Winnipeg, Manitoba-based New Flyer.


On the Net:

Middle Class Task Force: https://www.astrongermiddleclass.gov

New Flyer: https://www.newflyer.com/

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