Trump Budget Beats Up on Appalachia
Exactly what would “Making America Great Again” look like to Kentuckians? I have a pretty good idea it might look a little something like this: investing in entrepreneurial and business development to strengthen Appalachia’s economy; improving the education, knowledge, skills and health of residents; investing in critical infrastructure like broadband, transportation and water/wastewater systems; strengthening community and economic development by leveraging the Appalachian region’s natural and cultural heritage assets; and building the capacity and skills of current and next-generation leaders and organizations to innovate, collaborate and advance community economic development.
If that sounds like an excellent plan to you, you’ll be happy to learn that a move is already underway to accomplish those very things. The Appalachian Regional Commission, whose 2016-2020 strategic plan includes all of the above, is an agency established many years ago which focuses on economic growth in 420 counties throughout the Appalachian region. It encompasses all of West Virginia, parts of Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia among others. It receives the funding to do all this through the federal budget, $119 million.
According to the organization’s website, https://www.arc.gov, each year the commission provides funding for several hundred projects in the Appalachian Region in a wide range of program areas including asset-based development, community infrastructure, education and training, energy, entrepreneurship and business development, health, tourism and development, transportation and highways, telecommunications and more.
One of its programs, Distressed Counties Program, has provided funds for the region’s poorest counties since 1983. Kentucky counties constitute the largest contingency in the program with 37 counties being represented, including my very own county of residence, Powell County. The program began in 1983 by providing badly needed public services like water and wastewater facilities and then in 2000 it expanded to include community workshops and activities to encourage community learning and leadership, as well as a telecommunications and information technology initiative. The technology initiative provides access and infrastructure, education and training, E-commerce, and technology-sector job creation.
An example of how the commission’s health initiative is helping Kentuckians is a program called Bluegrass Child Advocacy Outreach. The program arose out of the high incidence of reported child abuse cases in many counties in Eastern Kentucky. The commission contracted with the Children’s Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass, Inc. to fund the project which is designed to recruit and train physicians so the victims of child sexual abuse receive the medical and psychological treatment they deserve and to provide telemedicine equipment for consultations at remote sites to make more exams and services available to abused children.
A couple of other ways Kentucky is benefiting from the Appalachian Regional Commission is the Kentucky Artisan Heritage Trails program which created a driving tour from I-75 to cultural heritage attractions and artisan businesses that bring in tourists, helping to promote economic growth; and the Kentucky Pride program that was established in 1997 by U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and Gen. James Bickford to combat Eastern Kentucky’s pollution problems. It helps alleviate problems such as illegal trash dumps and raw sewage from straight pipes and failing septic systems that contaminate streams, all of which deter from Kentucky’s tourism business.
Does this program help the coal miners, you may ask? Why yes it does. They created what they call an “energy blueprint” for Appalachia to provide the framework for the promotion of energy-related job opportunities through the stimulation of sustainable energy production, efficiency and innovation efforts in the region. Let’s face it, folks, we all know that coal is no longer a sustainable energy source and we must move on. Utilizing that knowledge, the commission created a program to, in part, train and educate on energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean fossil energy production. In other words, helping coal miners learn new trades and skills still within the energy field, but outside the dwindling coal industry.
Given all this information, you just may be under the impression that Trump is indeed keeping his promises to the voters of Kentucky, right? Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but you’d better think again. According to an article in USA Today written by Gregory Korte, Trump’s new budget is eliminating hundreds of programs and agencies throughout the country. Of course, this elimination will be time-consuming and cannot be done right away. However, his first budget proposal will eliminate 62 programs and agencies right off the bat.
Have you guessed it yet? Yes, one of the first to be eliminated/cut from government funding is The Appalachian Regional Commission. So, is Trump keeping his promise to his Kentucky voters? Looks like that’s a big fat NO to me!
And the beat goes on…