WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., today introduced legislation to reauthorize the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The legislation, S. 863, would authorize $100 million annually over the next five years, including $10 million a year to improve rural broadband services.
“Over the past 50 years, ARC has made critical, job-creating investments in many parts of Mississippi, from our highways and industrial development to tourism and health care,” Sen. Wicker said. “This proposal would ensure that the agency can continue to fulfill its mandate while also providing additional resources for expanding access to broadband. Improvements to high-speed Internet would have an enormous impact on economic development throughout Appalachia. I am hopeful that this bipartisan measure will receive prompt consideration by the Senate.”
“ARC grants have made a real difference in the lives of rural Marylanders by connecting communities and training workers to be more competitive for today’s global economy,” said Sen. Cardin. “We need to ensure that the Appalachian Regional Commission continues to make needed investments in infrastructure and be a true partner in expanding opportunities across this important region.”
“As the only state that is entirely within the Appalachian region, West Virginia has benefitted from the Appalachian Regional Commission’s development assistance in rural areas,” said Sen. Capito. “This reauthorization bill will continue the commission for five years and establish a new High-Speed Broadband Development Initiative that will help improve broadband service in West Virginia. In order to capitalize on all the potential opportunities that broadband can offer rural America, including economic growth, we must first ensure that these communities have access to the services they need.”
“The Appalachian Regional Commission has made numerous investments in Upstate New York’s economy that have strengthened our communities and helped businesses throughout the state grow and create new jobs,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “This bill enables the commission to continue its critical economic investments for five years and provides additional funding to improve rural broadband services so that business have the resources they need to compete in the global economy, expand and create new jobs.“
ARC is a regional economic development agency that represents a partnership of federal, state, and local governments. Established by an act of Congress in 1965, ARC is composed of the governors of the 13 Appalachian states and a federal co-chair, who is appointed by the President. Local participation is provided through multi-county local development districts.
ARC funds projects that would:
- Increase job opportunities and per capita income in Appalachia to reach parity with the nation;
- Strengthen the capacity of the people of Appalachia to compete in the global economy;
- Develop and improve Appalachia's infrastructure to make the region economically competitive; and
- Build the Appalachian Development Highway System to reduce Appalachia's isolation.
Each year ARC provides funding for several hundred projects in the Appalachian region, in areas such as business development, education and job training, telecommunications, infrastructure, community development, housing, and transportation. These projects create thousands of new jobs; improve local water and sewer systems; increase school readiness; expand access to health care; assist local communities with strategic planning; and provide technical and managerial assistance to emerging businesses.