WELLSTON — Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday the nation's economic recovery plan is succeeding, but more work needs to be done to create jobs and improve families' financial security.
Biden said the nation is seeing tangible results under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but the stimulus package is just one way President Barack Obama's administration has worked for a stronger economy.
"The conversation is not whether there will be recovery, it's about what shape the recovery will take," Biden said.
"Are we home yet? No, we are not," he told a few hundred people gathered at a St. Louis County police and firefighter training center in the St. Louis suburb of Wellston.
Biden, a Democrat, recapped the government's efforts to deal with the recession, talking about loans given to banks, efforts to keep people from losing their homes, the extension of unemployment benefits and the importance of creating more jobs.
Anyone who thinks the government is just trying to spend its way out of the problem isn't looking at the entire approach, Biden said.
And if Obama's administration hadn't responded the way it has, the "Great Recession" would have been much worse, with a million more jobs lost since January, he said.
In a conference call before Biden's visit, Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., noted national and local unemployment rates have continued to rise since the stimulus package passed. Missouri's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 9.5 percent in September, slightly below the national average of 9.8 percent.
"There is no stimulus effect," said Kinder, who claims debt from the $787 billion package actually is slowing the economic recovery.
Blunt, who voted against the stimulus package earlier this year, said Congress should pass a new bill stopping further stimulus spending except for projects already approved. Much of the money will be spent in later years on programs favored by Democrats, he said.
At the Biden event, St. Louis Police Chief Daniel Isom said in July, he thought the department would lose 50 officers to budget cuts.
"I was worried about sending officers home to their families to say they've lost their jobs," he said.
More than $8 million from the federal COPS program to St. Louis turned that around, Isom said. He didn't have to let officers go, and a new class will start at the police academy later this month to train recruits, he said.
The $1 billion COPS program is part of the stimulus package that passed earlier this year to help cities avoid laying off police officers. Under the program, the federal government will pay some officers' salary and benefits for three years, after which the local governments will be responsible for the costs.
Biden said the true measure of economic success will be more jobs that allow people to take care of themselves and their families.
Parents "have to be able to look in their kids' eyes and say: 'Honey, it's going to be OK,'" he said.