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Proposal targets funding for Appalachian Regional Commission


The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va. — The White House Thursday released President Donald Trump’s 2018 federal budget proposal called “America First.” In it, he proposed cutting funding for 19 agencies entirely, including the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

The ARC is a federal-state partnership focused on economic development across 13 Appalachian states, including West Virginia.

Funds from the commission are used across the state to create economic opportunities, aid workforce preparedness, build critical infrastructure, and leverage natural and cultural assets.

Between October 2012 and January 2017, the Appalachian Regional Commission has supported 55 projects with nearly $24.1 million, according to the commission website. These investments have been matched by an additional $24.6 million in state and local funds.

Nearly $5.7 million of funding has been used to develop critical infrastructure including broadband and water/sewer systems.

Nearly $13 million has gone toward entrepreneurial and business strategies to help strengthen the economy.

These projects created or retained 2,750 jobs and trained or educated more than 16,500 students and workers.

Leading the way in workforce training, the Coalfield Development Corporation received $1.87 million to provide low-income residents workforce training programs in construction, agriculture and other high-demand industries. The Coalfield Development Corporation reports more than 550 have received professional certificates or associate degrees.

Many local projects are waiting to hear if funding requests to the Appalachian Regional Commission have been granted. The Fayette County Urban Renewal Authority has applied for funds to renovate and reinvest in historic structures in downtown Mount Hope.

And the Fayette County Farmland Protection Board is seeking grant funding to turn the 84-acre Whitlock farm into a local farm incubator to offer training, resources and leased land to new farmers.

At $146 million, the agency’s current budget was increased in order to help deal with the decline of the coal industry in Central Appalachia.

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Also slated for defunding in the Trump budget are the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Chemical Safety Board and Legal Services Corporation.

The Chemical Safety Board is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. It is the agency that investigated the 2007 explosion at the Ghent Little General Store.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s mission is to ensure universal access to noncommercial, high-quality content and telecommunications services. It does so by distributing more than 70 percent of its funding to nearly 1,500 locally owned public radio and television stations. CPB is a private, nonprofit corporation.

The Legal Services Corporation is an independent nonprofit organization created to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The LSC promotes equal access to justice by providing funding to 134 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. Grant recipients serve thousands of low-income individuals, children, families, seniors and veterans in 813 offices in every congressional district.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Its mission has been to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement.

Massive cuts to the budget are meant to offset a $54 billion increase to the Department of Defense.

The budget proposal released Thursday only includes discretionary spending. A full budget proposal is expected to be released this spring.

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