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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CARTWRIGHT. Madam Chair, I move to strike the last word.

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Mr. CARTWRIGHT. I rise to oppose this amendment, this attempt by the gentleman from Ohio to zero out the regional commissions' budgets. I want to focus particularly on the Appalachian Regional Commission, the ARC.

The purpose of the ARC is to close the economic gap between Appalachia and the rest of the Nation to bring the region's 420 counties and 25 million people into the Nation's economic mainstream. ARC's goal is to help make this region and its people contributors to the national economy and to give them the opportunity to compete in today's international economy.

As a region, Appalachia confronts a combination of challenges that few other parts of the country face--its mountainous terrain and isolation, a dispersed population, inadequate infrastructure, a lack of financial and human resources, and a weak track record in applying for and receiving assistance from other Federal programs. Even with ARC's funding, in fiscal year 2010, Appalachia received 31 percent less in Federal expenditures per capita than the rest of the Nation. That is $11,435 in Appalachia versus $16,569 for the Nation as a whole.

ARC investments do not result in Appalachia's getting more than the rest of the country. In addition, as mentioned by the gentleman, ARC's programs do not duplicate other Federal programs. Instead, they extend the reach of those programs into the most challenging parts of Appalachia, enabling many distressed communities to take full advantage of other Federal programs when they would not otherwise be able to.

The ARC funds are often used as a local match that enables communities to compete successfully for these other Federal programs. In addition, the recent recession has hit Appalachia disproportionately hard. Nearly two-thirds of Appalachia's 420 counties have unemployment rates greater than the national average. The recession has wiped out all of the job gains that have occurred since the year 2000. A comparable loss for the Nation wipes out the gains only since 2004.

Further, ARC has compiled an impressive record of accomplishments in creating economic opportunity in Appalachia. From fiscal year 2008 to 2012, ARC directed 55 to 60 percent of its non-highway funds to distressed counties. The number of high poverty counties has been cut from 295 in 1960 to 98 distressed and 99 at-risk counties in 2013. The regional poverty rate has been cut almost in half, from 31 percent to 16 percent. Infant mortality has been reduced by two-thirds, and the rural health care infrastructure has been strengthened through the addition of over 400 rural health care facilities. The percentage of adults with a high school diploma has increased by over 70 percent, and students in Appalachia now graduate from high school at nearly the same rate as that of the rest of the Nation. More than 850,000 Appalachian residents now have access to new or improved water and sanitation services through ARC projects.

Madam Chair, the ARC has worked, and it has shown demonstrable improvements in the Appalachian region, but despite these accomplishments, major challenges still confront the region:

Nearly a fourth of Appalachia's counties still suffer from persistent and severe economic distress; 98 counties are formally classified as ``distressed,'' and another 99 are at risk of falling into the ``distressed'' category; Appalachia trails the Nation in per capita personal income and average earnings by roughly 20 percent; roughly 25 percent of Appalachian households are not served by a public water system, compared to 15 percent of the rest of the Nation's households; and 48 percent of the Appalachian households are not served by a public sewage system, compared to the national average of 25 percent. The region has been hit disproportionately hard by the loss of jobs in the manufacturing industry, as the region has lost one-fourth of its manufacturing jobs.

The ARC has been a model that has worked. For these reasons, we oppose the amendment.

Madam Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.

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