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Contact: Virginia Alvino Young, firstname.lastname@example.org
REIMAGINE APPALACHIA REMINDS CONGRESS: MUST-PASS PRIORITIES ARE RUNNING OUT OF TIME
Appalachian communities need critical legislative action before the next Congress convenes
APPALACHIA – With the midterm elections now over, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate now return to Washington for a lame duck session. ReImagine Appalachia, a broad and inclusive coalition of individuals and organizations based in Appalachia born out of a broad recognition that the economy has not been working for most people and places in the Ohio River Valley, urged Congress to prioritize passing critical legislation as part of an omnibus bill before the conclusion of the 117th Congress.
One of those priorities is the The STREAM Act, a simple, bipartisan bill on the table that would let states and tribes clean up polluted streams. The critically important Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included an unprecedented and transformative $11.3 billion for cleaning up abandoned coal mines, but unfortunately, did not allow states to set money aside for long-term acid mine drainage treatment facilities. Said Ezra Thrush, Director of Government Affairs at PennFuture, “Our communities deserve better than dirty orange water where we expect clean streams, healthy fish, and stable ecosystems. It’s not too late for this Congress to do the right thing and pass this important bill that will make a difference in hundreds of Appalachian communities.”
The 117th Congress must also address the extraordinary rates of black lung disease among coal miners across the country by passing the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act. “Miners are promised health care and a living stipend if they are disabled by black lung disease, but the benefits are insufficient and difficult to access. Pennsylvania Congressman Matt Cartwright and Senator Bob Casey have introduced the legislation to make this difficult process easier and to increase the level of support for miners and their families–tying benefit levels to inflation. “We owe it to these miners and their families to pass this direly needed measure right now – these workers have done so much for this country; it’s the least we can do for them,” said Dana Kuhnline, Campaign Manager for ReImagine Appalachia.
Another legislative item that cannot wait is the RECOMPETE Pilot Program, which could provide distressed local communities across Appalachia with flexible multi-year grants to invest in a variety of local economic development needs designed to increase employment rates. “RECOMPETE would establish a new program to provide planning and economic development grants for persistently distressed local labor markets, local communities, and Tribes, said Stephen Herzenberg, co-director of ReImagine Appalachia and Executive Director of Keystone Research Center. “The funds would target communities with low employment rates, and help alleviate persistent economic distress, support long-term economic growth, and create lasting, quality jobs.”
Lastly, ReImagine Appalachia is stressing the critical importance of passing the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a lifeline for workers displaced from their jobs by unfair trade policies. The program has served more than 5 million workers in the United States, but federal funding for this critical program lapsed on June 30. According to Dan Taylor, Appalachian Regional Field Organizer for BlueGreen Alliance, passing TAA would “offer trade-impacted workers a variety of supports including income support, a health coverage tax credit, and training, education, and job search assistance. Until Congress reauthorizes the program, the U.S. Department of Labor cannot consider petitions for TAA assistance, meaning thousands of workers do not have access to the program. It is estimated that more than 40,000 workers have missed out on TAA benefits since the program lapsed, a number that will continue to grow if Congress does not reauthorize TAA.”