$2.6 million federal grant aims to boost economy in Pennsylvania coal communities

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The grant is part of the Biden administration's effort to create new jobs in former coal-mining regions.

The Department of Commerce announced on Thursday that a $2.6 million grant funded by the American Rescue Plan is being awarded to Bedford County, Pennsylvania, to construct a 24,000-square-foot building located in a business park. The building will be used to maintain space for existing manufacturing businesses in the area and to attract new business to the region.

President Joe Biden signed the Rescue Plan into law in March 2021 after it passed Congress with only Democratic votes.

Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf praised the Bedford County announcement, describing it in a release as an investment that will create and retain more than 100 jobs and grow the manufacturing sector.

"I'm grateful that the Biden Administration shares my commitment to supporting the diverse businesses and industries that power our economy in Pennsylvania while simultaneously creating new, good-paying jobs," Wolf said in a statement.

The grant is part of the Biden administration's "Coal Communities Commitment," which seeks to invest resources in regions that have been affected by the long-term decline of the fossil fuels industry. The commitment falls under the Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration and accounts for $300 million of the $3 billion that the Rescue Plan allocated to the Commerce Department.

In his first month in office, in January 2021, Biden announced the formation of an interagency effort to assist coal communities.

"We're never going to forget the men and women who dug the coal and built the nation," Biden said in a speech before signing a related executive order. "We're going to do right by them and make sure they have opportunities to keep building the nation and their own communities and getting paid well for it."

The action echoed his 2020 presidential campaign, where Biden emphasized that, as part of a transition to a clean energy economy, investments needed to be made in coal communities that are being affected. His campaign website noted, "Each of these communities are necessary. We can't write them off or act like they don't matter."

The working group formed under Biden's executive order released a report in April 2021 that identified six regions in the country that had previously relied on fossil fuels and would be targeted for federal aid and investment.

The investments under Biden follow unfulfilled promises made by former President Donald Trump regarding the coal industry.

In 2016, when first campaigning, Trump promised to be "winning, winning, winning" after bringing back jobs to coal miners. The Trump administration repeatedly weakened environmental regulations while cutting back on enforcement by the Environmental Protection Agency and propping up coal companies.

Still, over the course of his presidency, the number of people employed in the coal industry declined by 15%.

In the 2020 election, Biden defeated Trump in Pennsylvania after Trump's surprise win in the state in 2016.

In addition to the recent grant, the Biden administration has recently made large federal investments in Pennsylvania. The state will receive $1.63 billion under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to improve and repair bridges, and nearly $10 million to improve the state's transit system.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.