On November 29, 2021 during a meeting of the Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a 3-way partnership was announced to advance the Community Capacity-Building Pilot Program.
It’s hoped that this will help local development districts (LDDs) and local elected officials strategically deploy American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to reignite their regional economies.
“EPA is excited to partner with ARC on community-driven solutions that will expand our engagement and ensure that local communities can play a meaningful role in planning for and revitalizing their own neighborhoods and towns,” said EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe. “By collaborating on the Community Capacity-Building Pilot Program we can bring significant investments directly to Appalachian communities.”
That integrated agenda referred to by Janet McCabe above reflects the RECONOMICS Institute‘s dual focus on revitalization plus resilience, whereby the former heals economic, social and environmental crises, while the latter helps prevent them from happening again.
Combining the agendas helps ensure the success of both, by concentrating resources and enabling synergies. It also takes advantage of the fact that the same activities contribute to both: repurposing, renewing and reconnecting local natural, built and socioeconomic assets (AKA the “3Re Strategy“).
This partnership will lead to better collaboration and communication that will help pave the way for future engagements and investments in local communities including the once-in-a-generation investments that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will make in creating millions of jobs, modernizing our infrastructure, improving drinking water, cleaning up contaminated sites, and turning climate change into an opportunity.
“Two agencies coming together to help energy communities make best use of the American Rescue Plan’s historic infusion of funding goes right to the heart of our mission of supporting economic transformation,” said IWG Executive Director, Brian Anderson, Ph.D.
The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on revitalizing 423 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.
ARC and EPA also announced the selection of Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) to implement the initial phase of the Pilot Program, which includes 1.) facilitating ARPA best practice sharing among LDDs, and 2.) developing a virtual training series designed to help communities identify catalytic projects that are eligible for ARPA Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.
“This partnership with the EPA and the Community Capacity Building Pilot Program is great news for communities throughout Appalachia,” said ARC States’ Co-Chair Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. “The federal ARPA funding provides a unique opportunity for communities to build new capacity and spur regional economies, and this support will provide the tools they need to build on the Region’s strengths and drive growth and opportunity throughout Appalachia.”
The National Association of Counties, Entreworks Consulting, and the Development District Association of Appalachia will also work with CREC to implement the training and best practice-sharing.
“We are so pleased to join forces with the EPA on the Community Capacity-Building Pilot Program. The ARC-EPA partnership will strengthen the depth and reach of the pilot program to help our Appalachian communities maximize this historic infusion of federal funding through the ARPA Local Fiscal Recovery Fund,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “With this initiative, ARC will be able to better support communities across Appalachia in making investments that will reverberate throughout the region long-term.”
Registration for the Community Capacity-Building Pilot Program training sessions will open in early 2022 to local development districts and local elected officials.
“Helping communities build capacity and empowering them to create a vision for a stronger and healthier future is key to achieving environmental and economic resiliency,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz. “I look forward to the efforts of this EPA-ARC partnership to help drive environmental and economic transformation in the Appalachian Region.”
ARC is also in the process of seeking proposals from qualified organizations for the next phase of the Community Capacity-Building Pilot Program, which will provide technical assistance to communities deploying American Rescue Plan Act Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.
Proposals are due January 14, 2022, at 5 p.m. EST.
Photo of historic downtown Matewan, West Virginia by FloNight via Wikipedia.