By: Patrick Flannery
Representative, State of Kentucky
While the spring brings warmer weather and a season of renewal to the commonwealth, it can be hard to remember that Kentuckians in eastern and western parts of our state are still working tirelessly to rebuild communities damaged by tornadoes, storms, and flooding.
While new construction offers hope, we know more needs to be done to stabilize these areas and support their efforts to recover and grow. These natural disasters only compounded hardships caused by the decline of the coal industry brought forth through the Obama administration.
This session, we approved HB 9, legislation aimed at helping communities in eastern and western Kentucky access federal funding to help build local economies. HB 9 establishes the Government Resources Accelerating Needed Transformation (GRANT) Program to provide support and grant funding available to communities impacted by the loss of coal-related jobs. In addition, the bill also provides $2 million in funding in the next fiscal year and directs the Department for Local Government to partner with the Kentucky Council of Area Development Districts to administer the program.
I think we can all agree that it would be foolish not to capitalize on an opportunity to help rural communities. The federal government set aside $3 trillion to provide funding for economic development, education, infrastructure, and agriculture and we are already seeing neighboring states leverage this opportunity to make a substantial impact.
Three of Kentucky’s neighboring states – Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia – have already approved similar legislation to assist in matching the federal funds and are experiencing remarkable success.
These neighboring states invested up to $500 million dollars to support their ability to compete for this same federal funding. In reviewing the success of Indiana’s program, we found that they have been able to leverage their $500 million investment to access $9.86 billion of federal and private dollars. These numbers would make quite a difference for our struggling counties, bringing economic development to our most underserved areas at a time that they need it most.
HB 9 provides the Department for Local Government (DLG) the authority to administer the GRANT program, while The Council for Area Development Districts and Area Development Districts will help identify grant opportunities and assist in the application process. When the DLG awards this money, the applicants in these counties will move on to the federal application process. To further protect the state’s economic standing, the state portion of funding is contingent on receiving approval for federal funds.
Eligible grant recipients include local governments and nonprofits engaged in public benefit improvements to priority communities designated by the federal Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization. The work group has designated 41 counties in east and west Kentucky. The federal government identified these counties as “rural energy communities.” As of today, there are $185 billion in grants open and targeted towards these 25 national areas, of which we have two. These counties include:
East Kentucky (Region prioritized 2nd nationally): Bell, Breathitt, Carter, Clay, Elliott, Floyd, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Wolfe
West Kentucky (Region prioritized 6th nationally): Ballard, Breckinridge, Caldwell, Calloway, Carlisle, Crittenden, Fulton, Graves, Grayson, Hickman, Hopkins, Livingston, Lyon, Marshall, McCracken, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Todd, Union, Webster
While there is no simple answer to our challenges, HB 9 gives struggling communities new hope. Economic development looks different in every area, but with this funding eligible counties will have the ability to take steps to bring in a new era for their future generations.
As always, I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. If you would like to receive regular email updates on what is going on in Frankfort, feel free to send me a request via my legislative email at Patrick.Flannery@lrc.ky.gov. For more information, please visit the legislature’s website at www.legislature.ky.gov.