Despite President Donald Trump’s promises to support Appalachian and coal country workers, his budget would completely cut the Appalachian Regional Commission, or ARC—a partnership that works with state and local governments to invest in the region’s workers, businesses, and critical infrastructure. In Alabama, ARC funds support an average of 531 jobs and $16.5 million in earnings every year.
The commission covers the Appalachian region, spanning 420 counties and 13 states, and garners strong bipartisan support. The ARC acts as a catalyst for targeted efforts developed by local communities for local communities, ranging from access to water and internet and the development of agritourism to the preservation of Appalachian history and culture, as well as job creation and entrepreneurship.
One of the core ARC projects is the Appalachian Development Highway System, which seeks to connect Appalachian communities, bring in new jobs, and promote economic development in the region. The system is 89 percent complete. If finished, it is predicted to result in 80,500 jobs, $5.0 billion in increased value-added production, and $3.2 billion in increased wages for workers in Appalachia by 2035—a return of $3 for every dollar invested.
The ARC empowers local governments to design and implement economic revitalization plans that address the needs of their communities. From 2007 to 2013, ARC nonhighway investments accounted for nearly 10,000 jobs and $400 million in regional earnings, and since its founding, these nonhighway investments have brought an estimated 311,835 jobs to Appalachia. In ARC counties from 1969 to 2012, job growth was 4.2 percent higher and income growth was 5.5 percent higher on average compared to neighboring non-ARC counties.
Appalachian voters trusted President Trump to understand their needs and create good jobs—95 percent of the counties covered by the Appalachian Regional Commission voted for him in 2016. But Trump is already turning his back on Appalachia—and Alabama faces threats to both the ARC and the Delta Regional Authority, which acts in a similar role in other parts of the state.
Impact of the Appalachian Regional Commission in Alabama
The ARC covers 37 counties in Alabama and more than 3 million residents, almost two-thirds of the state’s population. Thirty-four of the 37 counties covered by the ARC—91 percent—voted for Trump in 2016. These counties fall into six of Alabama’s seven congressional districts—the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th Districts—which are represented by Rep. Martha Roby (R), Rep. Mike Rogers (R), Rep. Robert Aderholt (R), Rep. Mo Brooks (R), Rep. Gary Palmer (R), and Rep. Terri Sewell (D).
Without the ARC, Alabamians would lose out on an average of 531 jobs and $16.5 million in added earnings every year. Here is the breakdown:
- Since its founding, the ARC has brought more than 26,000 jobs, invested $309 million, and led to $807 million in increased earnings for Alabamians.
- From October 2015 to January 2017, the ARC invested $11.2 million in 64 projects in Alabama and attracted an additional $21.6 million in private investments. The projects created or retained nearly 900 jobs and provided education and training for more than 14,000 students and workers.
- The ARC helps provide health screenings for 20,000 pre-K through 12th-grade students in Alabama every year—the only contact many students have with a medical professional.
- The ARC has enabled counties across the state to invest in tablets and laptops to aid retention and achievement of high school students, invest in infrastructure and entrepreneurship, and provide job training.
At the ballot box, voters in Appalachia trusted Donald Trump to fight for their jobs and their communities as president. Cutting the ARC is an outright betrayal of Appalachian communities and would leave them without the funds to implement critical workforce, education, and infrastructure projects.
Sunny Frothingham is a Senior Researcher at the Center for American Progress.