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Additional Funding Released for Appalachian Coal Communities

Erica Peterson

An economic development agency targeted for elimination by President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday nearly $16 million in funding to help diversify economies in hard-hit coal communities in seven Appalachian states.

The funding is earmarked for 18 projects in Alabama, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia, and will create or retain more than 1,700 jobs, the Appalachian Regional Commission said in a news release.

The money announced by the ARC comes from a job organization comprising the commission, the U.S. Commerce and Labor departments, and other federal agencies, and is "a blueprint for new jobs, fresh opportunities, and a robust economic future for Appalachia," ARC federal co-chair Earl Gohl said in the release.

ARC has invested more than $92 million over the past year to diversify the economies of 250 counties in 11 states. The commission says Appalachia lost 33,500 coal mining jobs between 2011 and 2016. Trump has targeted the commission for elimination.

Five of the latest projects are in West Virginia, including $1.5 million for manufacturing engineering training equipment at Bluefield State College, $1 million for a training and degree program run by Pierpont Community and Technical College and Fairmont State University, and $1 million for a bicycle trail system in three southern counties hit hard by coal-job losses.

The largest grant, $1.75 million, will develop a southwestern Pennsylvania food production hub that is expected to provide economic opportunities in 38 counties in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The project will support agriculture sectors including sheep, lamb, goats, poultry and specialty crops.

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