The federal government will award as much as $38 million in grants this year to assist Eastern Kentucky communities negatively affected by the decline of the coal industry.
Funding will come from the Department of Labor’s Dislocated Worker National Emergency grants, the Small Business Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission, which is co-chaired by Gov. Steve Beshear.
“This is a very exciting step forward I think for all of Appalachia and particularly for those of us who have zeroed in on Eastern Kentucky as a place that we want to diversify that economy,” Beshear said at a press conference on Friday.
Grants will fund projects that create jobs or study local economies, officials said. The initiative comes amid a flurry of state and federal attention to Eastern Kentucky.
On Monday, the governor signed into a law a funding mechanism that will back economic development projects using coal severance funds as part of the Saving Our Appalachian Region, or SOAR, initiative.
Earlier this week the Department of Agriculture announced a $19.9 million grant to help Eastern Kentucky food stamp recipients find jobs.
Jerry Abramson, the White House director of intergovernmental affairs and former mayor of Louisville, said the initiatives are important to President Obama and Kentucky leaders alike.
“It’s a win for the Commonwealth and an opportunity for us to put together a team that will continue to put together a team that will continue to make a difference in the lives of so many of the miners in the Appalachian area,” Abramson said.
Brian Deese, senior adviser to the president said that the $38 million in grants is the first step to an additional $55 million proposal to create jobs in Eastern Kentucky next year.
Local governments, businesses and groups for the grants will open in April and May.