WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05) demanded answers from U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross regarding his proposal to eliminate the Economic Development Administration (EDA) as a way to save money in the budget for 2019.
"Your own evaluations show EDA programs have exceeded performance goals in private sector investment in distressed communities and jobs created as a result of EDA grants, yet for a second year in a row, you propose to eliminate this agency entirely," said Rep. Rogers. "Mr. Secretary, Kentucky's Fifth District is among the poorest, most economically distressed congressional districts in the nation. In more than half of my counties, at least 30 percent of residents live below the poverty level. Even the county with the lowest percentage is still well above the national average. This dire need is exactly why my constituents have received over $20 million in EDA grants since 2011. I am very concerned about how this proposal would affect rural America."
"Many difficult decisions were necessary to reach the funding level provided in this budget and unfortunately, the elimination of EDA was one of those," Sec. Ross responded.
"Within EDA, I'm particularly troubled by the loss of money that we have historically directed to coal mining communities," continued Rep. Rogers. "I come from the warfield - from the war on coal. I have 12,000 laid off coal miners in my district alone who are able people, mechanically talented people. In the past, EDA has worked to help these types of communities that need assistance and the only place for them to turn to, quite frankly Mr. Secretary, is EDA. I hope that you could reconsider your budgetary recommendation in this regard."
Rogers noted the House Appropriations Committee has rejected the Administration's proposal to eliminate the EDA over the last two years, deciding to provide sufficient funding for the agency and its programs.
Rogers also asked Sec. Ross about the backlog of trade cases pending before the International Trade Administration (ITA), impacting the domestic steel industry. For example, in December 2015, AK Steel temporarily laid of approximately 700 employees at its Ashland, Kentucky facility, pointing out the "onslaught of unfairly traded imports."
"Several of these companies joined together and filed a complaint with the ITA and the International Trade Commission accusing China, and other countries of purposefully undervaluing their corrosion-resistant steel imports in order to increase market share in the US," said Rep. Rogers. "Over the last few years, this Committee has steadily provided funding increases for the ITA's enforcement and compliance division. I am pleased to see that the President's request continues this trend with an additional $3 million above the House-passed bill in FY18."
Sec. Ross said the agency is working diligently to reduce the backlog and increase enforcement.