Millions in grant funding for Appalachian Ohio has been awarded to projects in Athens and surrounding counties

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Athens and surrounding counties are among the big winners in the first round of grant funding intended to promote transformational change in the state’s Appalachian region.

The Athens armory is shown in this photo taken from the street in front of it. It will receive funding as part of a grant to rehabilitate six historic downtown buildings across Appalachian Ohio.
The Athens Armory will receive funding as part of a grant to rehabilitate six historic downtown buildings across Appalachian Ohio. [WOUB File Photo]
The governor’s office announced four grants totaling $50 million, the first chunk of $500 million that will be awarded over the next year under the Appalachian Community Grant Program. Three of these grants include projects in Athens County.

The first round of grants was intended for projects that were shovel-ready, meaning they will begin construction or implementation within the next 90 days.

The Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program, based in Nelsonville, received more than half of the $50 million awarded, with a grant of nearly $26 million. SAOP, an advocacy and support organization for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, will use the funds to expand services in Athens, Gallia and Meigs counties.

This will include establishing a mental health drop-in center and advocacy trauma center, and developing more temporary shelter and transitional housing services, including the construction of 3D-printed affordable housing.

Another grant, totaling more than $17.6 million, will be used to rehabilitate six historic downtown buildings, including the Athens Armory, to be used as collaborative spaces for economic development and community programs and services. The city of Athens plans to convert the Armory, located at the end of Court Street, which is now being used for storage, into a coworking space.

The other buildings in this grant are the Hocking Hills Children’s Museum, the Hocking Hills Chamber, the Logan Theater and Community Arts Center, the Somerset Builders Club and the Coshocton Collaborative.

A third grant of more than $4 million was awarded to the Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia, which will use the money to develop tourism in Athens, Meigs and Jackson counties, including completing more trails and visitor facilities, such as lodging, for the Baileys Trail System.

The fourth grant, just over $2.3 million, was to the Utica Shale Academy of Ohio to be used to increase access to workforce training for at-risk, low-income individuals and families impacted by substance use disorders in Columbiana, Carroll, Jefferson and Mahoning counties.

In addition to the four development grants announced Monday, more than $7.6 million in technical assistance grants were awarded to 21 organizations throughout the 32-county Appalachian region.

The grants will be used by these organizations to help develop competitive proposals for the next round of grant funding, when the rest of the $500 million will be awarded. The application period for the second round of development grant funding is expected to open in November and the grants awarded around this time next year.