Appalachian group’s brief makes recommendations for ARC

APPALACHIA (WTVQ/Press Release) – Amid negotiations in Congress over the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better Act, Appalachian groups are pointing to the urgent need for significant investments in the region, including more funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

A new issue brief released today by ReImagine Appalachia titled “A Stronger Appalachian Regional Commission Vital to Economic Progress,” discusses the history of the ARC and offers recommendations for how this important agency can best respond to Appalachia’s current challenges, as well as a need for increased funding for the program.

In FY 2021, Congress appropriated $180 million for ARC. President Biden’s 2022 Budget Proposal includes an additional $55 million for the commission.  On top of this request, Representative Conor Lamb (PA-17) and Representative David McKinley (WV-01) introduced bipartisan legislation that would provide an additional $1 billion in funding for the ARC’s Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative over the next five years.

“Too many people continue to struggle to make ends meet across our region,” said Rep. Lamb. “Investing in the Appalachian Regional Commission will support programs that will fuel job creation and economic opportunity. The RE-POWER Act is a smart investment that will pay big dividends for western PA and beyond.”

The ARC was formed in 1965 to create opportunities for the region by improving roads, hospitals, and fostering economic diversity. However, funding is down significantly from its peak between 1965 and 1980.

“Federal support for the ARC has fallen away in recent decades and the timing could not have been worse. Congress has an opportunity to invest in the region through the ARC, create new economic opportunities and help ensure that children who are now in Appalachia’s schools are graduating with meaningful opportunities to find good jobs where they live,” said Ted Boettner, senior researcher with the Ohio River Valley Institute and co-author of the brief.

“Beyond the 5+ million jobs lost because of the pandemic,  6 million U.S. men don’t have employment due to the loss of good-paying manufacturing and extraction jobs. Twenty out of every 100 West Virginia men 25-54 don’t have jobs, which is nearing depression-era joblessness. Now is the time for increased investments in Appalachia,” said Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center and co-author of the brief.  “Jobs created through the POWER Initiative and other ARC programs  can give many who have lost hope and are at higher risk of addiction a chance to contribute again and perform vital work that benefits us all while supporting their family,”

Advocates will be hosting a Twitter Chat, Thursday, September from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. to discuss the issue brief (linked here), answer questions regarding the ARC POWER program and to share recommendations for the future of the program. Follow @newdeal4us or the hashtag #InvestinAppalachia to follow the conversation.

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