Dear Chairman Feinstein and Ranking Member Alexander:
We respectfully request that you include $76 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) in the Fiscal Year 2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill as recommended in the President's proposed federal budget.
The Appalachian region is home to some of the nation's most beautiful landscapes and hard-working families. While the economic crisis has certainly impacted families across the country, Appalachia faces some of the greatest economic challenges in the nation. Job loss rates in Appalachia have been more severe than in the nation as a whole; employment in the region fell by 3.2%. While U.S. employment rates are slowly recovering, Appalachia has lost all of the jobs gained since 2000. Of the 420 counties in Appalachia, only 17 have registered positive employment growth since 2008, which is up from last year, but remains historically low. Current economic trends compound the existing economic distress across the region's 420 counties from the southern tier of New York to the hills of northern Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.
The most current regional data shows that:
Two-thirds of the counties in the Appalachian region had an unemployment rate equal to or higher than the national average;
In FY 2011, 82 Appalachian counties qualify for distressed county status (prior to 2010 census data), on the basis of low per capita income, high rates of poverty and unemployment;
Using 2010 census data, 96 counties in Appalachia will qualify for distressed status.
Per capita income trailed the rest of the nation by almost 20%; the per capita income in Appalachia was $29,719 in 2008, only 80% of the 76% of Appalachian residents have high school degrees compared to 80.4% of U.S. citizens overall;
17.6% of Appalachian residents have a college degree compared to the national average of 24.4%;
20% of Appalachian households are still not reached by community water compared to 10% for the nation; and
20% of Appalachian households are not served by public water supplies as compared with the national average of 10%.
In ARC's 2008-2012 reauthorization, Congress mandated the addition of ten new counties to the 410 counties already in the region, and recognized the mounting need for ARC's economic development and job creation investments by suggesting funding levels between $103 and $112 million for the five year period. To continue the important work that ARC does for the underserved communities of Appalachia we are urging the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee to fund the Commission at the level requested by the President. This level of funding will help ARC meet the region's infrastructure deficiencies and continuing human capital and leadership deficits, which concentrate poverty and unemployment across Appalachia.
ARC delivers real value on federal investments. In 2008, the Economic Development Research Group completed a study assessing the economic impact of ARC's infrastructure and public works projects. The Group examined a sample of 104 ARC projects out of a total 400 completed between 1999 and 2005. This study found that the $29.4 million ARC invested in the projects in the sample when combined with $34.4 million in other federal investments:
Created 17,600 jobs and helped retain 9,580 existing jobs;
Generated $638.8 million in new wages annually;
Led to the expansion of $1.3 billion in annual personal income; and
Leveraged $1.7 billion in private investment, a ratio of $75 of private funds to $1 in ARC funds.
Despite important gains throughout the region, Appalachia's future remains at risk. On behalf of the twenty-five million citizens living in Appalachia, we urge you to support $76 million for the ARC in the Fiscal Year 2012 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of our request,