This is an old story back from May 2015 but it strikes at the heart of where I live in Eastern Kentucky, the Appalachians. And it saddens me greatly since I moved here only 8 years ago. You might say this was my first time in life to see up close and personal the devastation of the poor and middle class in one community.
Thousands of coal miners and coal-fired power plant workers who have lost their jobs due to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations since President Barack Obama took office can go on welfare – and to take advantage of $35 million in set aside “Power+Plan” welfare grants for the industry.
According to the Obama administration, the Commerce Department’s Power+Plan grants program will help “communities and workers successfully adapt to changes in the coal industry and power sector.”
Making no mention of easing the mostly arbitrary EPA regulations to staunch the bleeding of jobs in the coal industry, President Obama is asking Congress to raise the budget for Power+Plan grants to $55 million. The president believes the increased funding will “diversify” local economies across Appalachia so they become less reliant on coal jobs.
In the county I live in the massive closings of coal mines and miners who have lost their jobs, the misery is great. God’s Food pantry here is trying to feed 25% of the county. The need is so great that families are on a waiting list of visits to God’s Food Pantry every 3 to 4 months.
Just where are these new jobs promised by Obama? I see none. According to the Ag Extension office who works with God’s Food Pantry (run by a Christian church) tells me that the number of people who need food has skyrocketed since Obama took office. It used to be that families could come every month. I don’t know how these families stay fed on what is given out for one month to last throughout the next 3 to 4 months.
Kentucky and West Virginia have been two of the hardest hit states when it comes to federal regulations on coal. EPA regulations are forcing power companies to delay coal-fired power plant repairs and maintenance… cancel plans to build new power plants… and force fully operational coal-fired power plants to close.
Some jobs have also been lost due to competition from natural gas. Kentucky lost 644 power plant jobs from 2008 to 2013 – a 37 percent drop in the workforce – and 5,188 coal mining jobs during that time – a 31 percent reduction in the state’s coal workforce.
I see the ramifications of the loss of these jobs daily. During the winter schools close when the temperatures are cold because children don’t have coats, mittens, and boots to protect these children. And I’m sure the schools also cannot afford the rising electric rates that go along with the EPA’s draconian regulations.
Through many conversations with people in town whole generations of families are now living together because their daughters and sons have lost their jobs and their homes. Therefore the families must move in, sons, daughters and their children. They are having a difficult time feeding this many people under one roof.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said:
“Kentucky’s coal miners, their families and those working in coal-related jobs continue to suffer under this Administration’s War on Coal and its burdensome regulations, the result of which has been the loss of thousands of high-wage jobs in a region facing serious economic challenges.”
Until January, when Republicans took over control of the Senate following the 2014 elections, not much attention was paid to the Kentucky Republican. Since then, McConnell has only been able to secure $7.5 million from the Labor Department retrain coal workers who lost their jobs.
“This funding will help … provide essential reemployment services – including for emerging information technology jobs – to approximately 700 Kentuckians who have lost jobs or businesses as a result of the decline in the coal industry,” McConnell said.
But I see no evidence of this. There is no lessening of people who go to God’s Food Pantry. They look like they are on their last dime. Many are badly disabled people. Most of them are depressed. After all they once had good paying jobs. They don’t want this for their families.
Families who are somewhat better off try to help by donating clothing but the need is too great to be fulfilled. Plus there are not that many people who better off than those who lost their jobs. Wages are low. Jobs are scarce.
Another ramification of this burdensome EPA that is not mentioned is the tax money loss due to fewer coal trucks on the road who used to pay taxes to support programs for many things, including the Agriculture Extension Agency and the Senior Center.
The Ag Extensions supplies much-needed programs for farmers and women who need to grow and can food. There are so many helpful programs I can’t name them all but helping Diabetics and lunch boxes for kids on weekends so they have food are a couple out of many.
The senior center used to provide an adult care center for those seniors too disabled to get out of the house. Two workers did the care taking of these people during the morning and through a nutritious lunch. That has been stopped too due to the lack of tax money that used to come in from the coal trucks. The bus which picks up seniors has had its’ time limited. So Seniors who can’t drive any longer have less time to do the things they need to do. Walking is not an option for many of these seniors either through inability or the distance.
I felt I needed to write about this because just hearing that coal miners are losing their jobs isn’t enough without telling the whole domino effect of such effect the lost jobs have on a community. In my county and those around me this has been devastating.
Furthermore, I see no sign of any new types of energy production such as natural gas. There are many in this country who heat by wood. But that is not the norm. I fear when the time comes when we families can no longer afford the rising cost of the coal and the EPA’s surcharge which rises every year. The percentage added onto the electric bill is excessive and the poor cannot afford it. Not even the middle class people can keep paying these exorbitant electric prices.
And then what happens when all the coal companies are shut down? Our governor, a Democrat, has done nothing to help this situation. He is in lock step with Obama. The man running for our new governor, another Democrat and sleaze has never done anything either. Governor Beshear has made no plans on supplying our Appalachian counties with a different form of energy. A real lack of planning on his part to say the least.
Eastern Kentucky you might say is a lost part of the country. Most people make fun of the wonderful people who live here. I don’t think you could run into kinder and more helpful people than they are. I experienced this kindness when I lost Ron. I didn’t even know the people who helped me. It didn’t matter to them, they saw I needed help in all kinds of ways. That is their Christian way.
Obama and the EPA have Appalachian lives in their hands and it seems the end game is to make sure we all die at some point when we either freeze to death or suffer heat stroke in our very hot summers. They do not care. Obama does not care about the poorest among us and every time he speaks about the helping the poor and the middle class he is lying. I see the proof. Obama kept his promise that he would break the coal companies and he has done that. But he also has broken the proud and independent people who live here. I have a suspicion however that these proud people will make a come back some how, some way with their deep belief in God.