The Appalachian Regional Commission, extending from southern New York to central Mississippi and encompassing more than 400 counties, marks its 50th anniversary this year, one of the enduring programs of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society agenda.
The ARC, as it is generally known, isn’t the same agency as when it began but it remains focused on quality of life issues beginning with a rebuilding and strengthening of economic foundations in innovative federal-state-private-sector partnerships.
Education, health care and transportation (through the Appalachian Development Highway Program) remain concerns.
It is one of the rare agencies that thrives even though it has of necessity had to get by on less money over time and with some narrowing of its scope.
The funding in Fiscal Year 2015 is $68.2 million, which does not include Appalachian highway funds.
ARC’s role could be enhanced under a bipartisan proposal from five ARC-region senators, including Republican Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
Wicker, Ben Cardin, D-Md., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., introduced legislation last week to reauthorize the Appalachian Regional Commission for five years, via Senate Bill 863, at $100 million annually, including $10 million a year to improve rural broadband services.