Alabama’s coal communities like Jefferson, Tuscaloosa and Walker counties have been hit hard by the loss of coal jobs over the past few years, but help could be on the way.

Thanks to grant funds from the Appalachian Regional Commission and several other agencies, $50 million will be available to Alabama and 12 other Appalachian states. The POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative was designed to help create jobs and host job training, develop small businesses and increase access to broadband internet.

Today, an information meeting at the Bryant Conference Center in Tuscaloosa laid out the details on the grants, and how to apply.

ARC Federal Co-Chairman Earl Gohl said it’s important to help those hardest-hit by the changes to the coal communities.

“Over the last seven years, we’ve had a dramatic decline in the use of coal in the generation of electric power,” he said. “The idea of these funds is to help communities with the economic transition to an economy that can help support their families and can help provide them a great future.”

But the ARC doesn’t want communities to compete against each other, he said. The ARC wants communities working together on their grant applications and ideas.

“It’s not county against county,” he said. “Folks need to collaborate and work together on their big ideas, and that collaboration is what makes those applications stronger.”

United Mine Workers of America International District 20 Vice President Daryl Dewberry said the grants couldn’t be coming at a better time.

“Hopefully this will bring some relief to the communities, the laid-off miners and vendors,” he said.

Dewberry said he’d like to see training opportunities presented in several areas across the state. While Bevill State Community College is a given, he said he’s hoping Shelton State Community College will also offer training for laid-off miners, so those affected living in the area won’t have to travel so far.

About 2,000 miners in the state of Alabama have so far been affected by mine closures and layoffs, along with coal-powered plant closures and layoffs.


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