President Donald Trump has proposed eliminating funding for economic development programs supporting laid-off coal miners and others in Appalachia, stirring fears in a region that supported him of another letdown on the heels of the coal industry’s collapse.
The 2018 budget proposal submitted to Congress by the White House on Thursday would cut funds to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The Washington-based organizations are charged with diversifying the economies of states like West Virginia and Kentucky to help them recover from coal’s decline.
The proposed cuts would save the federal government $340 million and come as the Republican president seeks to slash a wide array of federal programs and regulations to make way for increased military spending.
But they are perceived by some in Appalachia as a betrayal of his promises to help coal miners.
“Folks that live in Appalachia believe that the ARC belongs to them,” said federal ARC Co-Chair Earl Gohl, bemoaning the proposed cut. “It’s really their organization.”
Republican Congressman Hal Rogers, who represents eastern Kentucky’s coal counties, said he would fight to restore the funding when Congress negotiates the budget later this year.
“It’s true that the president won his election in rural country. I would really like to see him climb aboard the ARC vehicle as a way to help us help ourselves,” Rogers said.
Four hundred of the 420 counties ARC operates in voted for Trump in November’s election.