Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Trump cuts to rural development prompt opposition, resignation and some support in Ky.

In addition to eliminating the Appalachian Regional Commission, President Trump's budget also eliminates or cuts several other programs key to rural areas. Jose A. DelReal of The Washington Post went to Appalachian Kentucky, a Trump stronghold, to see what residents think about that.

Key lawmakers have said the ARC won't be cut, but other rural programs remain on the chopping block, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's community development grants, DelReal reports. For example, Frenchburg, Ky. (Best Places map), has received $1 million from HUD "to develop a senior-citizens center and a regional meal-assistance kitchen." Local resident Wendy Collins, a Trump supporter, told DelReal, "The government shouldn’t take it away. This place is below the poverty level. There is nothing here and people need something to stay out of drugs. This community has nothing. It needs help.”

A shuttered coal mine operation near Hazard, Ky.
(Washington Post photo by Michael S. Williamson)
Some of Trump's supporters in the region "appear willing to accept development funding cuts because they believe Trump’s broader agenda will help revitalize the region," DelReal writes. "The president has promised he will bring the coal economy back to life by cutting industry regulations, though experts have largely dismissed the effect such actions would have on jobs."

Trump said in Louisville on Monday: “As we speak, we are preparing new executive actions to save our coal industry and to save our wonderful coal miners from continuing to be put out of work. The miners are coming back.”

DelReal writes, "Some voters here conflate federal funding of assistance programs—such as food stamps—with those that fund infrastructure and community development." Shane Estes, of Elliott County, "said the money would not make a difference in the area anyway because the culture has been too polluted with drugs. Estes, who voted for Trump, said that some employers in the area have stopped drug-testing workers because that would mean they could not hire anyone. And he takes issue with people using food-assistance dollars on junk food. But what about spending on infrastructure?" Estes told him, “It’s going to get worse around here. . . . I don’t think Trump can change this; I don’t think anything can.”

Mount Sterling, Ky. (Best Places)
Grants have helped revitalize many communities in the region, DelReal writes. Mount Sterling, outside the Appalachian coalfield, "has been successful in cleaning up its main street. And it has benefited greatly from federal dollars." For example, Danielle King "purchased an abandoned building—empty since 1997—in downtown Mount Sterling seven years ago," restored it and turned it into a once-a-week bakery. She told DelReal, “If it wasn’t for grants, you would not be able to build and progress in a small town."

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