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White House Announces $14 Million in Grants to Coalfields Communities


The Obama Administration has announced more than $14 million in federal grants to coalfields communities around the country. Nearly $6 million of that will go to Kentucky for economic development efforts, to be divided among state government initiatives, nonprofits and counties.

The money is coming from existing funds coordinated through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, the Small Business Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

In a news release, the White House called the funding a “down payment” on the Power + Plan, which was included in Obama’s 2016 budget request to Congress.

That initiative proposed some $10 billion for coal communities, including for workforce development and technology upgrades. It would require Congressional approval before becoming law.

More than $3 million of the funding announced Thursday will go to the Kentucky Cabinet for Finance and Administration to help spur economic development efforts linked to the expansion of broadband in Eastern Kentucky. Other large grants include:

  • $543,635 to the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development in Elizabethtown, to map the commonwealth’s food supply chains and determine how to best fill the gaps;

  • $1.2 million to West Case Substance Abuse Treatment in Ashcamp, to help the group renovate a former school to serve as a substance abuse treatment center for women and child care center;

  • $275,000 to Appalshop in Whitesburg, to develop a one-year certificate program to train former coal miners in IT skills;

  • $160,000 to Hopkins County Fiscal Court, to study the regional impact of changes in the coal and power industries and develop a long-term economic diversification and growth plan.

Nonprofit Kentuckians for the Commonwealth praised the allocation. Member and retired coal miner Carl Shoupe called on Congress to take further action and approve the Power + Plan.

“This is an affirmation of the people and communities all throughout Eastern Kentucky who are trying to go forward, make a just transition and diversify our economy,” he said in a news release. “We thank President Obama for keeping his promise and recognize, as he said, this is a down payment. These grants will help, but they address only a smidgen of the opportunities we have.”

Democratic Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Republican Congressman Hal Rogers also applauded the grants at an event in Somerset on Thursday.

“Bringing broadband to our communities is not enough," Beshear said. "Our team will help entrepreneurs and businesses to better understand how to take advantage of new market opportunities, encourage citizens to develop essential digital skills and consult with communities on what their role is in getting fiber to homes and businesses.”

Rogers said the funding was part of a broader effort to bring prosperity to the region as the coal economy continues to decline.

“Thanks to the collaboration of our federal partners, our local communities are one step closer to bringing dream projects to fruition,” said Rogers. “We know there isn’t a silver bullet to overcome the many challenges we face in the Appalachian region, but with continued collaboration of resources and ingenuity, the future is much brighter for the people who want to live and work here at home.”

See more details about the funding here.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.