On November 15, 2022, Just Transition Fund (JTF), the only national philanthropic initiative focused solely on accelerating economic diversification in coal mining community, launched its new Federal Access Center (“The Center”).
The Center is a one-stop resource hub that will build on JTF’s track record of helping coal communities hurt by the move away from fossil fuels secure public funding for local economic revitalization solutions.
“Since 2018, Google.org has been a proud supporter of Just Transition Fund’s work helping communities thrive through the transition to a low-carbon future. That transition takes more resources than philanthropy can provide, but government dollars are often hard to access, especially for the most marginalized communities,” said Andrew Dunckelman, Head of Impact and Insights at Google.org.
“That’s why we’re thrilled to play a role in seeding JTF’s new Federal Access Center. I’m confident it will play a critical role in helping communities connect to the resources they need to build a more sustainable, resilient future,” he continued.
The Center will support community organizations seeking federal grants to advance projects related to economic and workforce development, economic diversification, and broadband access and affordability that are essential for creating an equitable, inclusive, and low-carbon future.
“The opportunity to leverage federal funding to strengthen local economies has never been greater,” said Heidi Binko, JTF’s Executive Director and Co-Founder.
“Billions of new dollars are or will shortly be available. But that doesn’t mean the funds will flow to the hard-hit communities that need it most. Significant barriers to access—such as high matching fund requirements, complex application processes, and lack of specialized expertise—currently prevent many organizations from submitting competitive proposals. The JTF’s Federal Access Center will help to ensure that coal communities are able to overcome barriers and take full advantage of this historic opportunity,” added Binko.
The Federal Access Center expands JTF’s existing grantmaking and technical assistance programs that help coal communities access federal funds by assisting them with competitive, complex funding applications.
The Center offers direct grants to support a range of costs associated with developing applications, including subcontracting grantwriters and other expert capacity, organizing community partnerships, and meeting matching funds requirements.
The Center also provides technical assistance from the JTF’s team of experts to help organizations identify funding programs, understand application requirements, build relationships with agency contacts, and see proposals through the final submission stage.
In addition, the Center offers a limited number of grants and technical assistance for early-stage planning projects that have a long-term goal of leveraging federal funding.
“I am grateful that funders like Google.org recognize that solving major challenges—from climate to racial equity—requires supporting economic transitions in distressed communities that have the least capacity but the greatest need,” Binko added.
“We cannot do this impactful work without the support of forward-thinking philanthropic partners, and believe now is the time for more funders to help advance this change,” she concluded.
As with all of JTF’s programs, the Federal Access Center seeks to support communities that are economically hardest hit by the transition away from coal and have the highest concentrations of historically marginalized populations. In these communities, from Appalachia to the Navajo Nation, JTF prioritizes support for efforts that serve low-wage workers, women, and Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color.
Billions of dollars in public funds that can be leveraged for economic transition are either currently, or soon to be available to coal communities.
New sources of funds include:
- The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $65 billion to expand broadband connectivity, $11 billion for mine reclamation, and $1 billion over five years for the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal–state partnership that works with the people of Appalachia to create opportunities for self-sustaining economic development and improved quality of life.
- The Inflation Reduction Act includes billions in clean energy investments, including nearly $9.7 billion for rural electric cooperatives’ clean energy transition and $1 billion for the Rural Energy for America Program.
- The CHIPS and Science Act includes billions to help rural and distressed areas create jobs in 21st-century economic sectors, including $11 billion for the U.S. Economic Development Administration to create regional technology and innovation hubs and to establish a Recompete Pilot Program for grants in persistently distressed regions.
This funding builds on prior federal commitments. Last year, the Economic Development Administration announced $3 billion through the American Rescue Plan, including $300 million dedicated to coal communities.
In addition, the Biden administration’s Justice40 Initiative promises to deliver at least 40 percent of the benefits of certain investments—including in clean energy workforce development and mine reclamation—to disadvantaged communities.
Beyond the climate and clean energy investments that are the focus of Justice40, other agencies are also acting on the Biden administration’s goal of advancing equity by targeting funding to underserved communities.
Since its inception in 2015, the JTF has helped community partners leverage $342 million in public and private funding.
Featured photo of the Sickler farm is courtesy of Sam Levitan / Natural Capital Investment. All other photos of coal community outreach efforts courtesy of Just Transition Fund