NEW YORK (MainStreet) — It’s been two years since President Obama signed the Recovery Act, better known as the stimulus package, one of the most ambitious bills ever passed to stabilize the economy and create jobs. Since then, much of the bill’s positive impacts on the country have arguably been overshadowed by the chorus of opponents who vehemently bash the stimulus for being a government overreach, and the sad reality that for all the economy’s progress since 2009, the labor market and economy as a whole remain pretty lousy.

Still, considering that the Recovery Act cost the country $825 billion, we’re well overdue to find out what returns we got on that investment.

The bill’s biggest accomplishment, according to a new report from the White House, was to successfully increase payroll employment by as many as 3.5 million jobs, as determined by data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Congressional Budget Office. As the Obama administration has frequently noted, this includes jobs that were created as well as positions that did not need to be cut as a result of funding from the bill. This 3.5 million estimate represents a slight decline from the 3.6 million jobs the administration predicted would be saved in total.

The Recovery Act also had a powerful impact on small businesses, helping the Small Business Administration to provide $30.4 billion of grants to 63,000 businesses nationwide, or an average of just less than half a million dollars each. Moreover, the bill pumped a total of $551 billion into local projects and initiatives around the country as of Sept. 30, 2010, an incredible amount given that it took place in just more than a year and a half. (What’s more, the White House reports that just $3 million of these funds, or 0.001% of the total Recovery Act, have resulted in fraud complaints.)

Meanwhile, many families saved thousands of dollars these past two years as a result of the Recovery Act, thanks to numerous tax breaks for married couples, first-time homebuyers and the unemployed, the last of whom also received a 65% subsidy on their Cobra health care coverage as a result of the bill.

Beyond this, the White House credits the Recovery Act for abruptly staunching the pace of layoffs and getting the economy to grow again. In the first quarter of 2009, when the Recovery Act was passed, the gross domestic product shrank by nearly 5%. By the end of that fiscal year, it grew 5%. Likewise, the nation was losing 700,000 jobs a month when the bill was first signed, and less than a year later, began adding roughly 100,000 jobs a month.

Of course, with the unemployment rate at 9% and millions still out of work, it’s difficult to be pleased with the current state of the economy, but it’s also not fair to ignore the strong progress that has been made.

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