Coalfield communities, particularly in Central Appalachia, are experiencing economic challenges as mines dwindle in production or close completely. Employment in Appalachia’s coal industry has been in decline for several decades because of competition from low-priced natural gas, changes in technology and depletion of cheaper coal seams. There is growing recognition from many in the region that building a new, more diverse economy is critical for the future.
President Obama is addressing Appalachia’s future with the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (Power)+ Plan. The program, which includes $55 million for communities affected by the coal industry, intends to invest in workers and jobs and will help Appalachian communities adapt to the shifting energy landscape. In March 2015, the plan was implemented when it was announced that funds would be awarded through a competitive grantmaking process – the first phase of the plan known as the POWER Initiative.
Unlocking upwards of $38 million in federal funding calls for strategic partnerships between philanthropic organizations and Appalachia’s communities. To help communities respond to the POWER Initiative and boost their capacity of dealing with transition issues, Rockefeller Family Fund and the Appalachia Funders Network have created a pooled fund – the Just Transition Fund. By partnering with AFN, RFF can help communities build capacity for effective transition planning and attract more national philanthropic support for transition issues.
In April 2015, AFN initiated the Just Transition Fund as the prototype of a new collaboration model between donors and receiving organizations. The Fund pooled resources of interested donors and re-granted the funds to eligible organizations. In under five weeks, the Just Transition Fund reached $500,000 of investment from donors. With those resources, they have provided 19 grants to assist in the project development, writing, and implementation of federal grants – 10 grants to coalfield communities and 9 grants to power plant communities. Recipient organizations will use the grant funds for organizing partners, engaging in economic research, hiring experienced grant writers, and undertaking activities to support the development of the proposal.
The Just Transition Fund hopes that investment-ready communities, with aligned partners and community-driven plans, will attract greater public and private investment in Appalachia, building long-term capacity and supporting locally-driven and funded efforts.
Appalachia Funders Network
Addressing social and economic causes and effects
—Kate Rooth, Campaign Director Appalachian Voices
"As a result of the Fund, several groups in southwest Virginia are now collaborating and the timing of the Fund's resources have allowed us to increase our transition work at a critical time. In addition, the program has led to partnerships that have strengthened the regions ability to be a more competitive applicant for federal POWER Initiative funding. "