The "POWER Initiative" is a federal initiative that provides funding to assist communities struggling with the decline of the coal industry in strengthening and diversifying their economies.
The POWER Initiative is implemented through a number of federal agencies, including the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Economic Development Administration (EDA), and 8 other agencies.
As of January 2017, the ARC had invested $73 million in impacted communities through the POWER Initiative. According to the ARC, "These investments will create or retain more than 6,500 jobs, leverage an additional $132 million into the Region and prepare thousands more workers and students for jobs in technology, manufacturing, entrepreneurship, agriculture, and other sectors creating a strong economic future for Appalachia."
Learn about the projects that the ARC has funded through the POWER Initiative here.
- Coalfield Development Corporation received $600,000 for a project that will support agriculture production on reclaimed surface mines in West Virginia and provide job training and business incubation services around the local foods sector.
- Appalshop in Eastern Kentucky received $275,000 to work in collaboration with community college to implement a one-year IT workforce certificate.
- San Juan College received $1.4 million to offer worker retraining services in collaboration with emerging IT, healthcare, and renewable energy sectors
- The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) received $200,000 to train bus diesel mechanics and technicians as part of a plan to transition a retired power plant into a bus storage and service facility.
- The Commonwealth of Kentucky received $3 million to build out broadband infrastructure, which will open up many more economic opportunities in Eastern Kentucky.
- The East Tennessee Development District received $35,000 to develop a strategic plan to improve broadband access in the region.
- The Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development received $500,000 to strengthen the local food supply chain in the region.
- West Case Substance Abuse Treatment received $1.2 million to build a residential child care center and substance abuse treatment center for women in Eastern Kentucky.
Tourism and Recreation
- Friends of Southwest Virginia received $350,000 to help build on momentum in their tourism and recreation sectors and provide training for entrepreneurs and others seeking high-demand occupations.
Applications for POWER Initiative grants are not being accepted at this time.
What is the POWER Initiative?
POWER Initiative grants are designed to help "create a more vibrant economic future for coal-impacted communities by cultivating economic diversity, enhancing job training and re-employment opportunities, creating jobs in existing or new industries, and attracting new sources of investment." POWER Initiative grants have been awarded to projects from West Virginia to New Mexico.
The first POWER Initiative grants were awarded in October 2015. The 2016 federal spending bill passed by Congress included funding for the POWER Initiative. Since then, three more rounds of POWER grants have been awarded by the ARC, the latest being in January 2017.
View the Oct. 2015 POWER Announcement by the White House here.
What can the money be used for?
The 2016 POWER Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) has all of the details on the 2016 opportunity.
- Developing projects that diversify local and regional economies, create jobs in new and/or existing industries, attract new sources of job-creating investment, and provide a range of workforce services and skills training;
- Building partnerships to attract and invest in the economic future of coal-impacted communities;
- Increasing capacity and other technical assistance fostering long-term economic growth and opportunity in coal-impacted communities.
See pages 4-8 of the POWER FFO for details on exactly what uses of the money qualify. There is a matching requirement for the funds. For the ARC, the required match depends on the economic distress of your community. You can see those match values for ARC counties here.
Where is the money targeted?
As the world changes how it produces energy, many communities that have supported energy production over the past century are facing dramatic consequences. According to ARC’s latest research, in just four years—from 2011 to 2015—America lost more than 25,000 coal jobs. And nearly 90 percent of them were in Appalachia.
POWER funds are targeted in communities struggling with the coal industry's downturn. This includes not only mining communities, but power plant, rail, and other communities whose economies were part of the coal supply chain. See page 9 of the POWER FFO to see what metrics (economic indicators, industry data, announcements by local firms, etc.) determine whether a community has been affected by coal's downturn.
Only Appalachian communities are eligible for the ARC money, while communities across the country are eligible for the EDA funds.
What entities are eligible for the grants?
In short: local and state governments, Tribes, development districts, non-profits, and schools.