Economy

Mending Mining Country: Three Ways Trump Could Help Miners And Coal Communities

May 15, 2017
Alexandra Kanik

At a March ceremony to sign an executive order reversing Obama-era environmental regulations, coal miners were arranged on stage around President Donald Trump as he took up his pen.

“You know what it says, right?” Trump asked the miners. “You’re going back to work.”

From his campaign rallies to White House events, President Donald Trump has surrounded himself with coal miners and promised to restore their collapsed industry.

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Apple says it will give $200 million to Corning Inc. so it can invest in a Kentucky plant that makes glass screens for iPhones and iPads.

The California-based company says the money will come from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund. It has pledged to spend $1 billion on U.S.-based companies to create “innovative production and highly skilled jobs.”

Corning has had a facility in Harrodsburg for 65 years. The company has collaborated with Apple for the past 10 years by making scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass for Apple’s products.

Lisa Autry

Bourbon, horses, and caves all helped Kentucky’s tourism industry post its strongest economic growth rate in more than a decade. 

Tourism had a $14.5 billion impact on Kentucky in 2016, up more than five percent from the previous year. Officials say it's the strongest overall economic impact growth rate since 2005, with each of the state's nine tourism regions showing increases. 

Following the announcement Monday at Corsair Distillery in Bowling Green, Tourism Commissioner Kristen Branscum credited the increase to marketing Kentucky as an ideal location for short getaways.

Becca Schimmel

United Mine Workers retirees are celebrating a permanent fix for health benefits secured in the federal spending agreement Congress reached over the weekend. However, the deal left them with more work ahead to shore up faltering pension funds.

Coal retirees have been fighting to secure benefits for nearly five years. With benefits set to expire at the end of April, the omnibus spending bill agreed upon by Congressional negotiators secured healthcare funding for more than 22,000 retirees and beneficiaries.

UMWA communications director Phil Smith called it a huge relief.

Office of Sen. Manchin

Congressional leaders are cautiously optimistic that a budget deal could protect health benefits for retired miners.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, said the Senate will back permanently extending health benefits for more than 22,000 retirees and beneficiaries.

Manchin said he spoke Wednesday with President Trump who said he supports the miners. Without Congressional action, miners benefits will expire at the end of the month.

At a press event in Washington, West Virginia’s Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito also called for a permanent fix, but she’s not declaring victory yet.

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Kentucky officials say annual unemployment rates fell in 86 of the state’s counties in 2016 compared to 2015. Annual rates rose in 26 counties and stayed the same in eight.

The Kentucky Office of Employment and Training says Woodford County had the state’s lowest annual jobless rate in 2016 at 3.2 percent.

It was followed by Oldham County at 3.4 percent; Fayette and Shelby counties at 3.5 percent each; and Scott County at 3.7 percent.

Officials say Magoffin County had the state’s highest annual unemployment rate in 2016 at 18.8 percent. It was followed by Leslie County at 13 percent; Harlan County at 12.1 percent; Letcher County at 11.9 percent; Knott County at 11.2 percent.

They say Russell County had the state’s largest drop in its annual jobless rate.

Alexandra Kanik

McKenzie Cantrell is an employment lawyer affiliated with the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic, in Lexington, Kentucky, where she works with low-income refugees and immigrants to uncover instances of wage theft and income disparities. Cantrell, who is also a state representative for part of Jefferson County, Kentucky, travels and gives presentations about employment law, wage theft and what workers' options are if they have problems with compensation.

“Sometimes you can just see on someone’s face, the fact that they have lost money over the course of their career, and it really affects you as someone who doesn’t want to see working people lose money and struggle in a low-income job,” Cantrell said.

Many of Cantrell’s clients work in the service and construction sectors, and many are women and minorities.

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Construction of a statewide broadband internet network in Kentucky has begun, but the project has been delayed and doesn’t have an estimated launch date.

When the initiative was announced in 2015 — during the last year of Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration — officials promised portions in eastern Kentucky would be completed by April 2016.

Phillip Brown is the new executive director of the Kentucky Communications Network Authority, the agency that oversees the project. On Tuesday, he said it still wasn’t clear when the project would launch.

Courtesy CVI

When President Donald Trump visited Kentucky for a recent rally he returned to a common theme from his campaign: environmental regulations are job-killers.

“I have already eliminated a devastating anti-coal regulation,” he said, referring to a measure he recently signed overturning a Department of Interior stream protection rule. “And that is just the beginning,” the president continued, pledging to turn the Environmental Protection Agency “from a job killer into a job creator.”

But in parts of coal country environmental regulations aren’t killing jobs, they’re creating them. Stream restoration made possible under the Clean Water Act is a multi-billion dollar industry and some former coal miners are finding work thanks to this revenue stream.

Defunding Appalachia: Coal Communities Resist President’s Budget Cuts

Mar 27, 2017
Rebecca Kiger

Danny Ferguson didn’t like what he saw happening in Lincoln County, West Virginia, where he grew up. The downturn in the coal industry had hit hard, and young people had few job options beyond some fast food places.

“We don’t have nothing else for them to be employed,” Ferguson said. “Lincoln County is in bad shape and Coalfield seemed like the only one willing to take a chance in that area.”

That’s the Coalfield Development Corporation, where Ferguson now works as a crew chief to mentor and train young people in carpentry and other skills. Trainees earn pay while getting experience as they reclaim old buildings, restore furniture, and install solar energy stations. Ferguson said the program offers hope in an otherwise bleak situation.

“The coal is dead, but they’re trying to find something for these kids to go do instead of nothing.”

Kentucky’s Transportation Cabinet is planning improvements to some of the state’s aging roads and bridges. There are 1,157 structurally deficient bridges according to a new report by The American Society of Civil Engineers.

KYTC spokesperson Ryan Watts said he wasn’t surprised by the report’s findings on the state’s infrastructure needs. The cabinet has plans in place to update and fix those structurally deficient bridges. Watts said Kentucky shares the national burden of addressing the needs of an aging transportation system with limited funds.

“Kentucky’s roads and bridges are safe, but they require significant funding to maintain operability,” Watts said.

US Army Corps of Engineers

Kentucky is receiving mixed reviews in a new report card looking at the nation’s aging infrastructure. The report was issued Thursday by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

One of the major challenges cited in the report is the $6.2 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs in Kentucky over the next 20 years. The state also needs a more than $6 billion investment to meet its wastewater infrastructure needs in the next two decades.

Kentucky motorists on average pay $331 a year due to driving on roads in need of repair. That’s actually a slight improvement since the last infrastructure report card, issued in 2013.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Mickey Champion

As President Trump’s administration ramps up immigration enforcement across the nation, a new report finds that illegal immigrants in Kentucky make significant contributions to the state and local economies. 

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy based in Washington, D.C., says undocumented immigrants pay more than $36 million a year in Kentucky income, property, sales, and excise taxes.

Anna Baumann is a research and policy associate at the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.  She says the contributions of illegal immigrants shouldn't be overlooked.

Kentucky Hospital Assoc.

Since the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act the health care sector has grown by more than 19,000 jobs in the Ohio Valley region. And some economists who focus on health care policy are warning that many of those jobs could well hang in the balance as Congress considers changes to the Act.

One of the ACA’s effects in the Ohio Valley region has been to sharply reduce costs for what’s called uncompensated care — that’s the cost of caring for the uninsured.

Dustin Pugel is an economist at the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, a nonpartisan research center. He said in Kentucky’s rural hospitals there’s been about a $150 million decrease in uncompensated care costs just in the first quarter after Medicaid expansion. He worries that if the ACA is repealed more people will lose their health insurance, and hospitals will have to cover that cost again.

  

Roxanne Scott | wfpl.org

In the fundraising world, the future is in fact, female.

About 80 percent of workers in the field are women. As philanthropy is projected to slightly increase in 2017 and 2018, women are in the foreground of the donation business.

“It’s an area of great attraction to women,” said Penelope Burk, president of Cygnus Research. “There’s a lot of relationship building and dealing directly with people, and that attracts a lot of women into the field.”

Burk conducts research on donors and philanthropy. She was in Louisville recently to present at Donor-Centered Fundraising, an event by the Center For Nonprofit Excellence.

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