The Appalachian Regional Commission provides millions in investments to Appalachian communities each year — but it is completely cut in President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget.
Trump’s proposed budget calls for the elimination of all funding for the commission, according to a report by Time. Ninety-five percent of the counties the commission supports voted for Trump, according to the Time report.
The Appalachian Regional Commission is a federal-state partnership that invests in resources in Appalachia. From 2015 to 2017, the commission supported a total of 662 projects in the region totaling $175.7 million, according to data provided by the commission. Over $257.4 million of that funding was matched by other organizations.
The commission was founded in 1965. At the time, over 30 percent of Appalachian residents lived in poverty. From 2011 to 2015, the poverty rate was just over 17 percent, according to the commission website. Additionally, the number of high-poverty counties in the region has declined from 295 in 1960 to 87 in 2015.
In Ohio, the commission, working with the Ohio Governor’s Office of Appalachia, has supported 41 projects totaling nearly $9.7 million since 2015 in Appalachian Ohio. The commission has also created or retained more than 750 jobs in the region since then.
Athens has received funding from the commission for a variety of projects, according to a previous Post report. Athens City Council members passed a resolution in April opposing the budget cuts that would eliminate the commission.
Councilwoman Chris Fahl, D-4th Ward, said in the April meeting the commission has provided important funding to the local area.
“The ARC is an incredibly important source of revenue for the city of Athens and the region around Athens,” Fahl said. “We all know that when regions do better, cities do better.”
Councilman Jeff Risner, D-2nd Ward, said in the April meeting the ARC helped right many wrongs in Appalachia.
“I was born and raised over in Vinton County,” Risner said. “All my life I saw coal, timber, limestone and iron extracted out of the county going someplace else and very little coming back. The ARC, at least in some way, was correcting that."
In a letter to President Trump, Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Rob Portman, a Republican, urged the President to continue funding the ARC.
“Discontinuing programs such as ARC would undermine the progress we have witnessed in Appalachia over the last few decades and have a detrimental impact on our constituents in the region,” Brown and Portman said in the letter. “We urge you to reconsider your decision to eliminate this essential program and encourage you instead to consider ways in which the Commission could be expanded to ensure continued progress in Appalachia.”
Wendy Wasserman, the director of communications and media relations for the Appalachian Regional Commission, said she couldn’t comment on the budgeting process because it's ongoing, but said the commission will receive funding until the end of December.
“The federal government, including us, are operating under a Continuing Resolution which is in effect through December 8,” Wasserman said in an email. “The bill continues the Commission’s funding at the FY 2017 annual level of $152 million through that date, minus a small across-the-board reduction. Congress will need to pass another federal budget by December 8.”
Not all project funding for the Appalachian region comes from the federal government. Penny Martin, the public information officer for the Ohio Governor’s Office of Appalachia, said she wouldn’t speculate on the ongoing federal budgeting process, but said the state legislators are committed to helping the Appalachian region.
“We're very lucky that the state legislature has provided funding for the Appalachian region here in Ohio,” Martin said. “Our job is to administer programs with the funding we're provided with. We've been provided state funding so right now we're focused on administering that funding and building infrastructure and workforce here in Appalachian region.”