April 7, 2017

Trump's Draconian Budget Deals a Blow to Appalachia

"Rural America Takes Major Cuts The Appalachian Regional Commission was founded in 1965 "to help close the profound socioeconomic gaps between Appalachia and the rest of the nation." According to the Commission, in the past five years the agency has helped to create or retain over 101,000 jobs. Almost 63 percent of ARC investment dollars from fiscal years 2011-2015 supported projects that primarily or substantially benefited economically distressed counties and areas. ARC is a federal-state partnership that also garners private investment, which helps it draw bipartisan support. In 2015, for each $1 in funds invested by ARC in non-highway projects, $8 was leveraged in private-sector funding. ARC members want to be clear that their organization is not looking for charity. "We're not trying to ask the federal government to bail us out," says Jeff Whitehead, the executive director of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc., which receives ARC funding. "We are coming together to solve some of these problems and we need that federal support and that investment to propel our efforts." The Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program provides workforce and employer services to 23 rural Appalachian counties in Eastern Kentucky. It's one program of many in the region that receives funding from ARC. The need for workforce development in Kentucky is especially pressing. As of October 2016, an estimated 6,254 people were employed at coal mines in the state, the lowest level recorded since 1898. "The ARC, they've been a real instrumental partner in our region's efforts," Whitehead says. In the past two years ARC awarded $707,000 to the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, which used the money to train 670 people who are now employed full-time, the AP reported. "Investments like ARC into our efforts, they're just really poised to pay off great dividends," he says."