New Initiative Seeks to Boost Economy in Appalachia

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) – Four U.S. senators and the nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center have proposed 19 measures to boost the economy in Appalachia, including expanded broadband and telemedicine and tapping the region’s “vast” natural gas reserves for chemical and advanced manufacturing facilities.

The initiative released Wednesday is intended to help reverse struggles with poverty and isolation in the 13-state region where more than 25 million people live.

The senators involved are Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Warner of Virginia and Republicans David Perdue of Georgia and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

The senators say Appalachia has been disproportionately hurt by economic shifts and declines in coal and traditional manufacturing.

Other proposals include investments in highways and community water systems and education options like Pell Grants for older non-traditional students.