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Amiee Watts
[email protected]

Charlottesville, VA – Just Transition Fund (JTF), the only national philanthropic initiative focused solely on coal community economic transition, is celebrating the news that the Appalachian Climate Technology (ACT Now) Coalition, a community-driven, public-private partnership focused on building a new economy for southern West Virginia, has received a package of grant awards totaling $62.8 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (U.S. EDA). The grants were catalyzed by another $26 million in non-federal sources, including a $1 million matching grant, additional investments and technical assistance from JTF, whose funding and support help community and economic development organizations overcome the challenges and barriers to accessing federal funds for economic transition. The historic U.S. EDA grants will help transform West Virginia’s hardest-hit coal communities into a hub of green innovation and clean-tech industries. The nonprofit recipients of JTF matching grants and members of ACT Now are Coalfield Development Corporation, Generation West Virginia and the West Virginia Community Development Hub.

Following a White House announcement by video feed and remarks from President Joe Biden, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, leaders of the ACT Now Coalition gathered in East End Community Park in the State Capitol of Charleston, West Virginia, to hold a press conference celebrating this major achievement.

“We applaud the award of these significant federal funds to an initiative that is critical to demonstrating how public-private partnerships, anchored in equitable, community-based practices, can catalyze a just transition for coal-impact communities,” said JTF’s Heidi Binko.  “Securing federal funding for communities in need is an incredibly complex and challenging undertaking for the local organizations that are seeking to shape a sustainable and inclusive future. With historic levels of funding for economic development now available through a range of government agencies, JTF is committed to building local capacity and helping economically distressed coal communities overcome barriers to accessing the federal resources they need.”

The grants awarded to the ACT Now Coalition are part of the highly competitive “Build Back Better Regional Challenge,” a $1 billion national competition organized by the U.S. EDA to build new economic development approaches and good-paying jobs in economically distressed regions. The ACT Now Coalition is one of only 21 winners nationwide. The Coalition’s members include West Virginia’s two largest universities, the state’s two largest cities, and more than 50 private businesses along with the state’s most innovative nonprofit organizations. ACT Now is also backed by Gov. Jim Justice, who pledged a substantial matching grant.

The JTF grant recipients and ACT Now Coalition members supported by JTF are working to drive change in West Virginia from the ground up. Coalfield Development seeks to rebuild the Appalachian economy and reverse generational cycles of poverty by hiring people who struggle economically and face a myriad of barriers to employment. Generation West Virginia (GWV) undertakes community and economic development work with a specific focus on holistic workforce development programs, and seeks to create more job opportunities and career pathways in growing, diverse sectors of employment in West Virginia. The West Virginia Community Development Hub drives community economic development strategies in rural West Virginia communities, working each year with 15-25 municipalities with a focus on towns that have populations of between 1,000-25,000 people.

“We’re thrilled that the Biden-Harris Administration has made economic transition in energy-impacted communities core to its broader agenda on climate change and environmental justice. Economically distressed, transitioning coal communities must know that a vibrant future in a low-carbon economy is achievable. The award of this historic funding for the ACT Now Coalition in West Virginia sends a powerful message that when local communities, the public sector and private businesses align to drive change and can secure transformative federal funding to deliver it, a brighter economic future is within reach,” said Heidi Binko.

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