Randy Yohe Published

New State Commission To Connect Federal Dollars With Coalfield Communities

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We’ve heard for years about help to revitalize struggling coalfield communities. One bill’s passage may be a grant writer’s godsend.

House BIll 4479 could be a big help for small towns and is heading to the governor’s desk.

Del. Mark Dean, R-Mingo, explained how the Coalfield Communities Grant Facilitation Commission will work. Dean said using a portion of the state’s allotment of the federal infrastructure funding, the bill addresses one of small town governments’ biggest needs: grant writing, then finding matching grant funds.

“This commission is going to facilitate those matching funds,” Dean said. “Also, they’re going to provide a lot of technical assistance for people who are applying for grants.”

Del. Ed Evans, D-McDowell, said trained grant writers are hard to come by.

“It’s generally the mayor and maybe one or two people that work in the city hall that wind up writing these grants,” Evans said. “So now we’ve got professionals that will be able to add that technical assistance.”

Forty one of West Virginia’s 55 counties have towns that qualify for the grant funding. Under HB4479, coalfield grant funds are earmarked for promoting recreation and history, retraining coal miners, improving telecommunications, and most importantly, infrastructure.

“We’ve got people coming in all over West Virginia, especially southern West Virginia for trail riding. It’s become one of the great industries for West Virginia,” Evans said. “Well, the first thing they see is these torn down or falling down or burned down buildings that just need to be abated.”

Dean explained the funding mechanism to be allocated at the governor’s discretion.

“The funding is going to be starting in July from infrastructure money that comes down from the federal government,” Dean said. “A lot of it is going to be put in this fund.”

How much money? Evans is hoping for $250 million to start.