Photo by Sam Owens — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (center) and other state and federal officials announced federal grants for West Virginia in Huntington on Wednesday.
There was good news for the coalfields coming out of Huntington today, with the announcement of nearly $40 million in new money to help diversify the communities hard hit by the long-expected downturn in the mining industry.
The Gazette-Mail’s Andrew Brown was there and had the story:
Millions of dollars are being disbursed to groups in West Virginia and other coalfield communities throughout the country as part of President Barrack Obama’s POWER initiative.
State and federal officials gathered in Huntington Wednesday to announce more than $38.8 million in funding for groups in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Alabama.
Groups in the Mountain State will receive around $16.4 million, or more than 40 percent of the federal money, which will help advance efforts in education, infrastructure improvements, business development, manufacturing expansions and workforce training.
Jason Walsh, a White House policy adviser, noted at today’s event that there’s been bipartisan support for this kind of federal assistance. This bipartisanship, once difficult to find on these issues, is especially key on some of the administration’s big-ticket items — like billions of dollars to rescue the United Mine Workers pension and health-care plans and to pump more money back into cleaning up abandoned coal mines, legacy liabilities that, if not fixed, could forever hold back coalfield communities here. Support from Reps Evan Jenkins and David McKinley, both R-W.Va., is a great example.
To their credit, Rep. Jenkins and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin didn’t go overboard in trying to use any mention of Obama and coal to repeat tired, worn-out advertising slogans about EPA.
Rep. Jenkins said in his formal statement today:
These grants are critical to helping revitalize communities hurt by the downturn in coal. The Coalfield Development Corporation has developed innovative programs to help workers learn new skills and start their own small businesses, and I know this grant will help them offer their important services to even more entrepreneurs and communities. The Hobet mine site has unlimited potential for economic growth, and this grant will allow the state to develop a strategic plan to make this potential a reality.
And Gov. Tomblin said:
With the downturn in the coal industry, we in the state and federal governments owe it to those who have lost jobs through no fault of their own to do everything possible to create new economic growth. These POWER grants represent a positive step toward that goal. The projects being funded envision a West Virginia where promising new job opportunities are a reality. I am especially proud that the Hobet project is being supported as we continue planning for the best ways turn that site into an economic engine for Southern West Virginia.
But, unfortunately, then there’s the joint statement issued by Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito. Neither of them could tone it down for a day — even a day when the administration was handling out millions of dollars to their constituents.
Here’s Sen. Capito:
Years of onerous regulations that have targeted our state, have put many West Virginians out of work and hurt local communities. For more than a year, I have worked to ensure that economic development officials, including Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams and the Economic Development Administration, clearly understand the needs of West Virginia.
And here’s Sen. Manchin:
West Virginia has been devastated by this Administration’s harmful regulations and we must continue to fight to keep our coal jobs and to make sure every out-of-work coal miner has access to meaningful job opportunities.
And West Virginians wonder why we have a hard time being taken seriously on the national stage.