The Appalachian Regional Commission is investing another $43.3 million in communities affected by the downturn of the coal industry. The latest POWER grants from the ARC will support 51 projects in coal-dependent communities, including over $15 million for 20 projects in the Ohio Valley.
The investments are going towards projects that will support broadband expansion, workforce development, entrepreneurship opportunities, and substance abuse recovery in the region’s coal-impacted communities.
Tammy Jordan said the vision for a program that would strengthen the recovery-to-work ecosystem in West Virginia started 4 years ago. The program started taking shape last March and now with the ARC’s POWER grant, they can start serving 12 counties in the state.
Jordan is the president of Fruits of Labor, an organization that is partnering with the Region 4 Planning and Development Council in West Virginia to create a program that will grow social entrepreneurship by providing training for food-based businesses.
Jordan said the ARC funding changes the dynamic of how organizations can partner and create these programs.
“That’s really what it’s about. It’s not just about saying we’re coming together for this grant,” Jordan said. “It’s about saying we are actually creating systems with this funding that will carry long term into the future.”
The project, called “Creating Communities of Healings by Cultivating Businesses to Address the Opioid Crisis,” received a $1,499,894 grant.
Jordan said the funding will help serve 75 businesses and improve 30 more. This is the first phase of the project. Jordan hopes the project will be available throughout West Virginia in the future.
“Any time we start joining forces with others that are working in the community on similar opportunities or have resources that are great connections, then we strengthen the entire approach of the region,” Jordan said.
ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas said that these diverse grants are competitive and intended to help mitigate the economic harm from the loss of coal-related jobs and revenue.
“Applications are evaluated based on a criteria that include the degree of coal impact in the described area, scale, the impact of the project, collaborative partnerships that may be involved, leverage of other funds whether they are local investments or private, and return on investment,” Thomas said.
The agency’s POWER grants have now invested over $238 million in 293 projects across Appalachia since 2015.
Twenty projects in the Ohio Valley received new grants: seven projects in West Virginia, seven in Ohio, and six in Kentucky.