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Appalachian Regional Commission Announces New POWER Grant Recipients

coal OVR
Kudzu grows near a coal preparation plant in eastern Kentucky.

The Appalachian Regional Commission announced Thursday the latest recipients of grants designed to help struggling coal communities. The ARC will spend an additional $26 million for 35 new grants in its POWER initiative, the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization. Sixteen of those awards will go to projects in the Ohio Valley region.

The Center for Rural Development in Somerset, Kentucky, was awarded one million dollars for their Community Oriented Access to Learning program. The initiative is focused on the health and information technology sectors. The program expects to add 50 health worker students in a field related to their training, 110 in information technology and 26 in broadband technology. Wendy Wasserman is spokeswoman for the Appalachian Regional Commission.

“What’s kind of unique about this batch is that there are a bunch of awards that also help increase capital in the region,” she said. “So investments in setting up angel investing funds or other kind of more community-based capital access.”
Wasserman said Athens, Ohio, has been identified as a leader in entrepreneurial development, which is one of the reasons the Social Enterprise Ecosystem program received a $750,000 POWER grant. Wasserman says the Ohio University program will provide a support system for entrepreneurs and allow them to thrive.

“Entrepreneurs, they’re clever people, we couldn’t live without them but it’s not a 'one and done,' it’s not a 'I'm in it alone,' it’s really about building that network and maintaining momentum for that network,” she said.

The Creating Opportunities for Recovery Employment program in West Virginia will receive about one and a half million dollars for their initiative. The Marshall University Research program will develop a regional system to provide treatment, addiction recovery services, job training and placement for displaced workers.

“And one of the things that research has shown us and is showing smart people in this field is that having a job and having all the soft skills to be successful in that job is critical to recovery,” she said.

The Creating Opportunities for Recovery Employment program includes six Drug Free Moms and Babies sites and three new programs offering medication assisted treatment.

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