The Trump Budget: Harming West Virginians in Appalachia

Matt Karlson, right, and Chris Ward, walk across a suspension bridge between rock formations in Circleville, West Virginia, on March 24, 2015.

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 West Virginia, ARC funds support an average of 500 jobs and $15.7 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.

Impact of the Appalachian Regional Commission in West Virginia

The ARC covers the entire state of West Virginia, including all 1.8 million residents. All 55 counties in the state voted for Trump in 2016. West Virginia is divided into three congressional districts, which are represented by Rep. David McKinley (R), Rep. Alex Mooney (R), and Rep. Evan Jenkins (R).

Without the ARC, West Virginians would lose out on an average of 500 jobs and $15.7 million in added earnings every year. Here is the breakdown:

  • Since its founding, the ARC has brought more than 24,000 jobs, invested $387.6 million, and led to $770.9 million in increased earnings for West Virginians.
  • From October 2015 to January 2017, the ARC invested nearly $24.1 million in 55 projects in West Virginia, which attracted an additional $27.9 million in private investments. The projects created or retained nearly 2,750 jobs and provided education and training for more than 16,500 students and workers.
  • As part of the effort to revitalize West Virginia as the economy transitions away from coal, the ARC has trained and hired 26 health professionals to serve vulnerable coal communities and funded research on the agricultural reclamation of mining areas.
  • In partnership with the Coalfield Development Corporation, the ARC enabled the development of a comprehensive training center to equip 550 low-income West Virginians with skills in construction, solar power, and other growing industries.

Conclusion

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.