Appalachia gets $15.7 million to aid coal-impacted communities

The federal Appalachian Regional Commission last week announced $15.7 million in grants for 18 projects in coal-impacted communities in seven states, Kallanish Energy reports.

The federal funds are expected to create or retain more than 1,700 jobs, benefit 1,200 students and workers and leverage an additional $64 million in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, New York and Alabama.

The money comes from a job organization including the commission, the U.S. Commerce and Labor Departments and other federal agencies.

It is “a blueprint for new jobs, fresh opportunities, and a robust economic future for Appalachia,” ARC federal co-chair Earl Gohl said, in a statement.

ARC has invested more than $92 million over the past year to diversify the economies of 250 counties in 11 states.

The commission says Appalachia lost 33,500 coal mining jobs between 2011 and 2016. That represented 82% of America’s job losses in that sector. More than 67% of those jobs or more than 22,500 jobs, were lost in coalfield counties in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.

Five of the projects are in West Virginia, including $1.5 million for manufacturing engineering training equipment at Bluefield State College, $1 million for a training and a degree program run by Pierpont Community and Technical College and Fairmont State University, and $1 million for a bicycle trail system in three southern counties hit hard by coal-job losses.

The largest grant, $1.75 million, will develop a Pennsylvania food production hub in Uniontown that is expected to provide economic opportunities in 38 counties in three states. The project will support agriculture sectors, including sheep, lamb, goats, poultry and specialty crops.

President Trump has targeted the 13-state commission for elimination.