Wednesday, May 13, 2015

$35.5 million in grants to help areas adapt to coal changes

(AP) — U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez has announced that $35.5 million in funding is now available to places like eastern Kentucky where the economy has been devastated by the coal industry's downturn.

The grants, part of the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization program, will be awarded to government agencies and community organizations that work to diversify the economy and retrain the workforce.

Perez made the announcement Monday during Shaping Our Appalachian Region's second summit in Pikeville. SOAR, launched in 2013 by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, asks traditionally blue-collar coal communities to reimagine themselves in a 21st century economy.

Though Kentucky communities will have to compete with similar areas, Perez says the state's SOAR initiative inspired the federal government to create its program.