President Trump’s proposed federal budget for 2018, released last week, reduces funding for a number of agencies that have been critical in helping West Virginia and Appalachia in recent years.
One of the agencies at risk is the Corporation for National & Community Service, which runs the AmeriCorps and VISTA programs, two programs that are extremely active in West Virginia and whose value is felt keenly in many communities around the state.
The Appalachian Regional Commission is also on the chopping block. Since its creation more than 50 years ago, the ARC has worked hand-in-hand with state governors and Congress to address large-scale, persistent poverty in the 13 Appalachian states (ranging from New York to Alabama and everything in between).
We know that poverty hasn’t been eliminated in Appalachia. We work in communities that continue to address this continuing challenge every day.
But the ARC has helped cut the number of high poverty (or “distressed”) counties in this region from 295 in 1960 to 84 in 2017.
In West Virginia in the past 15 months, the ARC has provided funding for 55 projects, with more than $24.1 million invested in our state, generating a matching amount of nearly $25 million, expected to create 2,750 new West Virginian jobs.
Among federal agencies, ARC alone is committed to supporting and reinvigorating this part of America that continues to fail to thrive while the rest of the country’s economy grows.
The President’s budget is only a proposal, and merely a starting point for negotiations about what federal spending will look like in the coming year.
It is also a clear indicator of the Administration’s priorities in terms of investment. For this reason alone, it is curious that the President would choose to eliminate one of the key institutions helping a region that has shown him so much support.
The likelihood is that he could use some education about the critical importance of the Appalachian Regional Commission to the part of the country that he specifically pledged to help, both in terms of jobs growth and infrastructure development.
You can help do that, by reminding our Congressional representatives (Congressmen McKinley, Mooney and Jenkins) of what a critically important agency this is to our region, and by asking them to ensure that the agency stays within the 2018 budget, with at least equal funding to what it received this year.
The best and easiest way to outreach to each of them is to call their state and DC offices.
Congressman David McKinley
- Wheeling Office (304) 232-3801
- DC Office (202) 225-4172
Congressman Alex Mooney
- Charleston Office (304) 925-5964
- DC Office (202) 225-2711
Congressman Evan Jenkins
- Huntington Office (304) 522-2201
- DC Office (202) 225-3452
The outreach will take less than five minutes and is one way we can each continue to help moving forward the economic transition opportunities for West Virginia and the Appalachian region.
The ARC provides large-scale investments to the region for projects to build out infrastructure and seed innovative economic development. The purpose of the agency is, in part, to help provide the support to power the Appalachian region to come in line with the rest of the country.
In the past 15 months, this has taken the form of a major initiative to invest in innovative economic and community development projects that directly develop jobs and transition coal-related industries to new economic sectors to grow and diversify Appalachian communities.
The unique role of the ARC in West Virginia is that it is a partner with economic developers and community leaders on the ground, working directly with them to help identify and develop partnerships and projects that move forward innovation and economic development in a region that is in a multi-year shift.
Losing the ARC would mean losing millions of dollars of infrastructure and economic development funding.
The ARC has survived previous presidential budget proposals to eliminate it, including multiple proposals from President Nixon. It survives and continues to grow each year by showing its value and return on investment for our region, and by having strong champions in Congress who fight for its funding each year.
Please take a moment to remind Congressmen McKinley, Mooney and Jenkins that the ARC is a critical friend and partner to West Virginia, at a time when West Virginia needs it most.