The U.S. Senate passed a five-year reauthorization bill for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The legislation, which now has been approved by both the U.S. House and the Senate without encountering a single dissenting vote, now goes back to the House for a final vote before going to President Bush, who is expected to sign it into law.
"This is a watershed event for the ARC," said Federal Co-Chairman Jesse L. White, Jr. "The benefit of reauthorization is that it provides our local and state partners a longer-term planning horizon for a range of important economic development projects. The Senate action this afternoon, and the vote earlier in the House, is tremendously good news for Appalachia people."
Once repeatedly poised for elimination less than ten years ago, the ARC in recent years has been repeatedly recognized by university researchers and Congress as the nation's preeminent regional economic development program. The ARC has been cited as the model for the Denali Commission, and the new Delta Regional Authority, as well as for other proposed regional development programs in across the nation.
A key component of the legislation passed by the Senate directs ARC to strengthen the telecommunications capacity of the Appalachian Region by facilitating greater access to broadband telecommunications infrastructure; supporting education and technology job training; fostering wider adoption of e-commerce, and; promoting technology-sector job creation.
During fiscal year 2001, ARC estimates its infrastructure investments and entrepreneurship programs helped create or retain nearly 60,000 jobs in the 13-state Appalachian Region. New or improved water or sanitary sewer service was provided to more than 24,000 households. Some 50,000 Appalachian residents and students attended workforce training, leadership development and other educational programs in fiscal year 2001. And through ARC's health programs, more than 300,000 medical care visits were logged with physicians in the Region.