Appalachia is a region of the U.S. that helped shape the entire country. However, the region has fallen behind and almost seems to be stuck in time due to high rates of poverty and companies leaving the area.
Policy Matters Ohio and Reimagine Appalachia are working to restore the region and bring jobs back to the area. Policy Matters Ohio Senior Researcher Amanda Woodrum detailed the regional problems and some potential solutions on America’s Work Force Union Podcast.
Woodrum said the Appalachian region fueled the U.S. for many decades, supplying coal and other natural resources that boosted economies and increased manufacturing. However, the shift to renewable energies and other forms has left the area in the dust.
Currently, there is plenty of federal money being spent throughout the country to improve and modernize regions, except for Appalachia. She said this area needs to be brought along, the high rate of poverty is too much to overcome on their own and people need help.
Fixing the issues coal workers face
When the average American thinks of West Virginia and Appalachia, one of their first thoughts is coal mining. With the coal industry gradually shutting down, many skilled workers have been displaced.
In order to lift people out of poverty, they need work. With infrastructure being a key focus of the Biden administration, Woodrum wants to see these displaced workers brought along. She suggested finding work for them in similar industries, including capping oil and gas wells, mining for rare earth materials used to produce electric vehicle batteries and more.
Expanding broadband and the electric grid
Woodrum said she has worked closely with a diverse group of stakeholders on what they would like to see happen in the Appalachian region and how to have their demands met.
The region is lacking in broadband access, which lowers the quality of education, makes the region less desirable for corporations and more. They need federal funding to make these expansions happen. To have their voices heard, Woodrum said they are working to form an Appalachia caucus of elected officials who will fight for the needs of the region at the federal level.