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Shelby applauds federal grant to boost workforce development in Alabama coal counties

President Donald Trump and Governor Kay Ivey’s respective administrations are still trying to clean up after former President Barack Obama’s devastating “War on Coal.”

The day after Alabama Power Company announced that Plant Gorgas in Walker County will be forced to close because of punitive Obama-era mandates, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) Thursday lauded the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for awarding a major grant that will aid job training efforts in ten Alabama counties negatively affected by the decline of coal production.

The grant of $1,459,335 will be administered by the West Alabama Chamber Foundation’s West Alabama Works through ARC’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative. The grant will provide funding for workforce development activities that include both high school students and unemployed or underemployed adults.

“The Appalachian Regional Commission’s decision to continue investing in West Alabama Works is a testament to the program’s ability to promote workforce development,” Shelby said in a statement. “It is critical that we support efforts to foster an environment that will produce a competitive workforce and lead to a stronger economy. I look forward to seeing the lasting effects of this grant funding and the future growth that will stem from it.”

In addition to ARC funds, state sources will provide $1,537,633, bringing the total project cost to $2,996,968.

“Today’s announcement continues an ongoing commitment for innovative economic development in Alabama’s coal-impacted communities,” ARC Federal Co-Chair Tim Thomas advised. “Investing in key regional needs now will benefit the Region, and the rest of the country well into the future.”

The roughly $1.5 million ARC POWER grant will benefit more than 1,600 workers and connect 1,020 individuals with employment. It will also provide 859 individuals with industry-recognized credentials. The training programs provided through this grant include General Education Development, Test of Adult Basic Education, high school diploma and short and long-term post-secondary training.

The ten counties benefiting from the grant are Bibb, Fayette, Hale, Jefferson, Lamar, Marion, Pickens, Shelby, Tuscaloosa and Walker.

West Alabama Works is a part of AlabamaWorks, which is a network of interconnected providers of workforce services, including the governmental, educational and private sector components that train, prepare and match job seekers with employers.

ARC’s POWER grant program is a congressionally funded initiative that targets federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations and coal-related supply chain industries.

As the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Shelby’s leadership was vital to securing funding for this program.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn