Candidate Trump promised to protect the miners’ job at a rally in Abingdon, Va. last August, vowing, “It is the last shot for the miners. Hillary will be a horror show, and I’ll be an unbelievable positive. The miners will be gone if she’s elected.”
And voters in coal country believed him, showing their faith at the ballot box, as Trump won by wide margins in Kentucky and W.Va. last November. However, Trump’s strategy for coal country so far has been making what many consider to be dubious promises to bring back coal jobs, signing an executive order to kill the Stream Protection Rule and proposing cuts to the federal programs designed to help the region should coal jobs not come back.
Last week, Trump’s first budget proposal revealed plans to cut safety net programs designed to promote coal region economic development and aid communities hurt by vanishing mining jobs.
The proposal eliminates the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), an independent agency created in 1965 to confront growing poverty and despair in the region. The ARC has invested $175.7 million in 662 projects since October 2015, with projects such as new highways or broadband infrastructure.
According to a government review in 2015, the ARC created or saved approximately 23,000 jobs and provided 25,500 households with infrastructure services like water and broadband. The ARC has received bipartisan support in Congress because of its hand in reducing poverty rates and addressing basic needs to communities in the Appalachian region, such as access to clean water and sewer, educational opportunities, and workforce diversification.
Trump is also proposing to cut funding to the Economic Development Administration (EDA), which provides about $250 million per year in grants to support economic growth in particular regions. The EDA gave money to coal communities suffering economically as a result of cheap natural gas and new air pollution rules.
Rep. Hal Rogers, a senior House Republican from a key coal-mining district in southeastern Kentucky, one of Trump’s avid allies, was incensed at the proposed cuts. “I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the President’s skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive.”
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia told constituents at a recent town hall meeting that he did not like what had seen so far from the budget proposal.